Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dead reckoning

The report on my PET/CT scan wasn’t totally innocent, but what few areas of concern it raises can be safely put aside for now. The main thing is there’s no active disease. My melanoma sleeps. I can turn my attention to other, life-sustaining interests.

Living with the understanding that cancer could intrude again at any time isn’t such a bad thing. Many of us while in good health give lip service to living attentively and deliberately—being “in the moment” we like to call it. And then we put our heads down again to the tasks at hand and express surprise when another New Year’s rolls around. Everything goes by in a blur. We postpone a reckoning of our lives. Lord knows there’s always tomorrow to figure that out.

Except sometimes there isn’t. The unexpected happens. Tragedy strikes. A mole you'd never noticed before suddenly goes crazy. The comfort and security of your routine is forever altered in ways you couldn't predict. Your sense of time slows way down. In that regard, cancer often has the advantage of being a protracted affair. I’ve read that in medieval times cancer was rare because most people didn’t live long enough get it. Instead, they died suddenly from infectious diseases or in accidents. With cancer you had the luxury of contemplating your demise. It was looked upon as a blessing. I’ve had that privilege, plus I live with the knowledge that there may yet be a loophole in my medical prognosis. All things considered, my situation is not so terrible. It’s given me time to work on an advanced degree in reckoning.

Based on what I’ve learned, I figure that in the end everything will be OK, and if things aren’t OK, then it’s not yet the end. The longer this medical contretemps continues, the more practiced I become at noticing what’s going on in my corner of the world. Time slows way down. Details matter, and their careful observation has become a primary focus. I can come to provisional if not final conclusions about important things I previously barely gave time to consider. I can begin the process of tying up loose ends. Not all of them—just those that seem to matter.

I’ll be in Newberg on Saturday with my extended family to celebrate the special occasion of Allie’s college commencement. It’s the completion of a phase of her life that began, quite literally, the day I was diagnosed with melanoma. Together, we’ll be tying up a loose end. With a hard-earned diploma in hand, my extraordinary daughter will be launching a new, exciting and highly unpredictable phase of her life. So will I. Every day affords us both—us all—the same opportunity.


Anonymous said...

I'm relieved to hear your news, Peter. And stunned and amazed that Allie is graduating from college. So easy to say that time flies ... so hard to pay attention to the minutes as they go, and be in the moment, aware. But inspired by you and others in my life, I've been attempting to do just that. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of living, and reflecting on that living, each day of life. Oh, and congratulations, Allie!!

Anonymous said...

Very good news.