Can cancer be a nourishing path? In my case, it is acute myeloid leukemia, eminently treatable in theory, but not without its consequences. While it is a cancer that generally affects older people, between six and seven percent of cases occur in people 20-34. 1 Few people know what AML is. I was completely unprepared for this. Or so I thought.
AML is a tidal wave of an illness. It comes on hard and fast, depleting the body of infection-fighting and clotting ability. For this reason, it also kills fast if untreated. I won't bore you with the details; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is happy to do that. 2 What I plan to bore you with instead is my journey on this path, and I hope that others will join into discussions here about their own journeys, whether with illness or just with the various paths in their lives. My focus is on the nourishment we receive and create, for our bodies and souls, as we become aware of how little is in our control.
Leukemia has been a tremendous gift to me. When I received my diagnosis, I was stunned of course. My diet and lifestyle are nearly pristine - sanctimonious even. How could I get cancer? Furthermore, as a nursing mother of two young children, at the time four and a half and 8 months, how could I possibly manage an additional responsibility as large as healing myself from an acute and fatal condition? In posts to come, I plan to discuss my response to the diagnosis, my choices about treatment, and my experience with the illness, but I would rather not start there. To me, it is not the salient feature of the past several months.
Cliches abound as to how "life is about letting go." "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans," right? How often, and to what extent, to most of us really take this advice to heart, though? We need our plans to help us make a mental path upon which to embark, but then we become attached to this path, often finding ourselves hacking away at the underbrush, soaked with sweat and harassed by flies, hungry and tired, in order to try to continue in the pre-determined direction when the mossy track is quite clearly bending in another direction. Sometimes, however, we come up against an impassable barrier to our plans. In my case, the wall was cancer, and I had to turn aside. Imagine my surprise at seeing the mossy track right there, beckoning me to follow, if only I could let go of my preconceptions!
Hence begins the nourishing path of leukemia. It is a section in a lifetime of nourishing paths, but it is the dominant one right now. It has made clear my interests, planted a seed for a possible direction that my life might take professionally, pushed me even further into my interest in wholesome foods and their pre-eminent importance in our lives, and helped me let go of many nagging judgments about myself and others that were simmering, unacknowledged, below the surface of my psyche. It is making me a better parent, a better partner, and a better person.