I began this journey in denial, in July 2022. Another lump in another part of my human body. Until my actual diagnosis in late October, I fully believed that I had a cyst or something benign that might need to be removed. I didn’t every think cancer.
The fully present stage of my journey really began in my surgeon’s exam room when he informed me that what he was seeing was very likely cancer. My acceptance was uneventful: no tears, more of a numb curiosity about this vast unknown possibility. My surgeon told me that my cancer was treatable, that this would be a different year from what I had expected, but that I would be healthier and stronger at the end of my treatment. That was what I needed: empathy, expertise, and candor.
As a dabbling buddhist of 25 years, I’ve been learning how to live better by contemplating my own impermanence (i.e., mortality) over the course of my adult life, though cancer felt like a different thing altogether. My cancer diagnosis opened up a known path to the end, not just a contemplation or practice on why presence is so powerful, to live fully in the present moment we have. This is the most likely way I will leave this body in my lifetime, I told-asked myself. The thought leveled me, making my guts tingle and my chest open to an abyss, like superman falling to kryptonite when Lex Luthor surprises him with the green orb. I don’t want to die, my body gasped and my mind lurched, as my first cancer sob choked out from between my lips. It was that first glimpse of the path ahead that got me.
I’m not walking off a cliff though. I’m standing on a precipice. This diagnosis is a reframe. An invitation to live my best life today and every day. As my doctor said, this is not the year I expected. Two months into this diagnosis, I’m already stronger and healthier than I was before I accepted the fact that I’m living with a disease, tagged by a potentially mortal wound, and I’m loving every moment in the loving embrace of my family, friends, and colleagues walking this journey with me.