"Our soul must perform two duties. The one is that we must reverently wonder and be surprised. The other is that we must gently let go and let be." Julian of Norwich

...Cancer teaches both!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

We Are Not Alone

Living with cancer means living in the midst of a community of saints and angels who  share their stories, their wisdom, their pain, and their joy with us, both in person and through the medium of the written word. I’ve come to know these people as "heroes" although I’m sure none of them would see themselves as such. Some, Like Lance Armstrong, have enjoyed long-term survival and cure against incredible odds. Others, like Terry Fox, have walked the path of death with incredible grace and dignity. Collectively these saints and angels guide and accompany us on our journeys, wherever they should lead.

One such guide for me is Treya Killam Wilber. Treya Killam was diagnosed with cancer a few days after her marriage to philosopher and author Ken Wilber. They cancelled their honeymoon plans and spent the better part of the next 5 years on a journey of cancer care and healing before she eventually died in 1989. Their story is told with profound intimacy and tenderness in the book Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber .

Treya was a woman of deep wisdom with a great gift for journaling through which she has shared her insights with us.

Some excerpts that continue to inspre me…

“I’m certain I played a role in my becoming ill. A role that was mostly unconscious and unintentional. And I know that I play a large role, this one very conscious and intentional, in getting well and staying well!” TKW

“I want my will to live to be strong. I want to get as much time out of this as possible. And so I need to work at that with complete focus and dedication and clarity and concentration, and right effort. And yet, at the same time, be unattached to the results either way. Pain is not punishment, death is not failure, life is not reward. TKW

Cancer would certainly be a part of my life from now on, but not simply in terms of constant check-ups and of constant awareness of the possibility of a recurrence. I was going to use it in as many ways as possible.
Philosophically... to get me to look at death more closely, to help me prepare to die when the time came, and to look at the meaning and purpose of my life.
Spiritually,... to rekindle my interest in finding and following a contemplative path.
Psychologically... to be kinder and more loving to myself and others and to express my anger more easily.
Materially... to eat mainly fresh whole foods and to exercise regularly. Mostly, to be gentle with myself.” TKW

In Treya's writing, "will to live" and "intentionality" are held in a gentle tension with a healthy sense of "detachment" which respects the physical limits and vulnerability of our common humanity. In the end Treya lives and dies with a quality which her husband Ken describes as "passionate equanimity", an elusive peace in the midst of profound paradox.

Peace and Blessings...
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but rather, of playing a bad hand well!" Robert Louis Stevenson

originally posted in June 2007


Kelly said...

Hi Daddy,
This is a wonderful blog!
Very inspirational; I expect to read an entry every single morning to get me started on the right foot.
It is absurd that Mr and Mrs Wilbur spent their entire five years of marriage battling cancer.
I'm glad that you and Mom have had lots of good ones first.
Its pretty amazing what she said about pain and death not being punishment and live not being reward.
Thank you for doing thins Daddy,
Love Kelly

Kelly said...

That was supposed to be "this" not "thins"; I forgot to edit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob and Pam, thanks for putting up your blog. Site was passed on to me by Jim M. and I appreciate the fact that I can now contact you to say Hi and let you know that you are in my prayers. Thanks for the good work you did in Prince Rupert. I am happy to be there. Love, Donna

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,
Like Kelly, your blog is the first thing I go to in the morning (after feeding the cats!). And today's is amazing...both because of your strength, and reading about her strength. I'll be ordering the book from the library as soon as I finish this.
Keep up the good fight!
God bless,