“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul.” - G. K. Chesterton
Probably I have been spending too much time reading and listening to “end of the year” reviews, “best of,” “worst of,” and other tributes to 2011. That must be it.
Surely it is their unfortunate influence that urges me today to join in the timeless habit of gossips, town criers, old farts, bar cronies, grannies, and purveyors of real and imagined newsprint everywhere and develop my very own version of “The Year in Review.” It’s taken me some time to formulate a way of telling it, given that the genre of such year-end reviews necessitates at least some mention of world affairs and my year has not exactly been about much of that, at least not the last six months of it, wherein my attention was deflected by cancer. But as you will see, that deflection into Cancerland led me to think quite differently about what was important and what must be done now to honor what I’ve learned.
Last year at this most merry of holiday (holy-day) seasons, we were back in Alabama visiting our relatives and enjoying the hospitality of San’s folks, Martha and Clarence Bray. I was in high political mode, having just published a book Counter-Narrative to great reviews by progressives and predictably panned by right-wingers.
So, because one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I then wrote a series of political blogs that brought Scrooge into the 21stcentury as what in this year’s fashion we would call one of the 1%. My version begins:
Ebenezer Scrooge, Teapublican from Down There, tallied his books for 2010 with a self-satisfied smile. It had been a good year, a very good year. His disinformation business, funded by the Brothers Koch and popularized by his old pal Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda outlets had succeeded in convincing an increasingly docile electorate of many false things. That the world was not warming and those who said it was were dreaded socialists; that health care for all was really a liberal government takeover that would lead to—he licked his oversized lips—“death panels”; that increased regulation of the oil and food industries was further evidence of the government’s unwarranted intrusion into their lives and profits; and that lowering taxes for the rich—including himself, of course—was as important to the maintenance of democracy as slop was to the maintenance of pigs. Oink! He smiled. Yes, this had been a very good year!
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” - Cicero
Readers of this blog know that a couple of weeks ago I was pronounced “cancer free” as a result of a blood test. The confirmation of this status, however, depended on a CT-scan that I had two days ago. I have to admit I had some anxiety about the test, even though I feel fine. So here’s the really, really good news: the scans of abdomen came back with no growth or spread of the disease, and, as Dr. Sud put it, “all that remains is probably scar tissue.” Hurrah!!!
We will, of course, continue to monitor that status, but Dr. Sud is confident enough to have lengthened the next scan to three months from now instead of the usual six weeks. Put simply, it doesn’t get any better than this. For the foreseeable future and barring any unanticipated change, I have – we have – my life back!
So it is bearing this wonderful news that I want to acknowledge what I am calling “the gratitude particle” in my life. I want to say thanks to those who have done so much to enable my spirit and my healing, to support our family, and to offer encouragement, love, humor, stories, and prayers, all of which had important parts to play in getting us from where we were six months ago to where we are today.
One of the more curious aspects of being “in remission” occurred to me when I was working on my book, Final Draft. Back in September when I started writing what I still envision to be an adventure story about a boy who followed a white rabbit down a hole and who then grew up to be a curious fellow indeed, I knew I needed something to preface that old rabbit story. I needed something that combined my lifelong interest in reading and in crafting narratives with a final “summing up,” by which I mean some useful conclusions about what those narratives and living by the logic of them have meant in my life and what I have learned along the way.
Readers of this blog know that the past week brought with two pieces of excellent news: My CA-19/9 blood marker dropped to 32 (no active cancer) and I successfully completed my final round of chemotherapy. Following the exuberant and joyful “Happy Dance” performed by the amazing Four Winds Oncology Team, I emerged from a known place where my illness was center stage and the fight against it was “game on” into a new life that – as Monica put it – can “be a little scary.”
How could that be? How is it that undergoing six months of aggressive cancer treatments and then being pronounced “cancer free” can be “a little scary?” I mean, I got the good numbers, chemo wife! But Monica explained to me that part of the scariness is because a known routine – our twelve rounds in the Room of Orange Chairs – is behind us; and part of it is that as a result of it being behind us we are no longer in the regular care of those we have come to trust with our lives. “Some people feel a little depressed,” she said.