"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, November 19, 2010

Well Enough!

Most cancer survivors are familiar with the inevitable "How are you?" question from family and friends.  It is innocuous enough in most instances but can become challenging when it can't be answered with the obligatory "I'm Fine".

For the most part we have reduced "How are you?" down to a rather meaningless greeting.  It fits in very nicely with "Hi!" as in "Hi! How are you?".  Likewise, the response has mostly been reduced down to a meaningless "Fine", or perhaps the lengthier version "I'm doing good", whether or not we happen to be "fine" or "good" at all.

Ah... but for the cancer patient, and their circle of friends and family, this becomes a much richer exchange.  To begin with, the friend comes with a genuine curiosity, heartfelt care and concern. They earnestly want to know "how you are", and equally earnestly want to hear that "you are well".  Family and friends are our strongest hope bearers.  They want us to be well, and if they could will it, we would all be well.  There is no stronger healing power in the world than the love and prayers of family and friends!

Be that as it may, the problem arises on those, not infrequent, occasions when we are not feeling "fine", "well", or "good".  For myself, I wonder "How much do I say?"   My experience has been that people's eyes often begin to glaze over when I launch into a litany of minor medical problems, or they begin to squirm when I relate the nasty details of the latest disease progression or treatment regime. 

Those who know me and have followed my blog know that I have always been forthcoming and detailed about my condition, my treatments, and my options going forward.  But still... the greeting "How are you?"  challenges me.  How do I answer, honestly and succinctly?

I have finally found the response which now works best for me...  "I am well enough."   "Well enough" seems to sum it up for me at this particular stage of the journey.  I am certainly not as well as I would like to be.  I am not able to work in the job that I love.  Nor I am not able to travel to Florida to visit my folks and many friends there. I can't even take a lengthy roadtrip to visit friends in the North, the Okanagan, or the Kootenays. It is difficult to plan much of my life beyond a few months at a time. Each of these things, and many others, are a cause for disappointment and some sadness. Alas!

However...  I was well enough to attend Robyn's wedding in Edmonton and dance 'til the "wee hours". I am well enough to walk the forests and seawalls of Stanley Park with friends and colleagues.  I am well enough to enjoy lunch and a matinee movie with my daughters Kelly and Morgan.  I am well enough to anticipate with great joy the birth of Robyn's child next Spring.  I am well enough to enjoy the occasional night out at the symphony or a play.  I am well enough to explore the many different options for living well (enough) with this deadly disease. And I am well enough to enjoy each day and night, each moment, with my beloved wife and partner Pam.

And that brothers and sisters is  W E L L   E N O U G H!!

Be well enough... Rob, in Vancouver


Mary said...

This is a very poignant post. "Well enough" pretty much sums it up. I also am not well enough to do the long trips that would bring me to family, but well enough to enjoy some normal days around the house, with occasional trips out of the house to local shops. I find those days I am well enough to not be in tears from the pain, I am well enough indeed! Stay strong and keep up the fight!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Rob. Thank you. Aloha Kathleen

Kathryn in MN said...

As usual, you've said it so well. More than well enough!

Wishing you many days of Well Enough and hopefully some beyond Well Enough, when you can maybe fit in a few more activities that can't make the list right now.

Anna Christie said...

Great post, Rob. I remember that sometimes the question "how are you?" made me angry. Usually from people who I thought didn't care much how I was, they were just slowing down to look at the accident. I remember one woman who was part of a 3-person committee in my previous denomination that decided I should not get a fair severance pay when they closed my church down while I was having cancer surgery. I sensed the question was always "fake" somehow. Anyway, one time when she ran into me and asked, all sappy-sweet, "how ARE you?" I answered "Dying. And you?" That pretty much guaranteed she'd just cross over to the other side of the street if she saw me coming. Inappropriate? Funny? Cruel? Perhaps all of the above. And yet, as I reflected on it, it's a fair answer for anyone to give at any time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rob, it was so nice to see you at Highlands United Church today and to listen to your always amazing sermon. Dianne and I both felt so bad that we had to leave half way through. Her son is suffering from retinal detachment, and had emergency surgery on Friday to try to reattach the retina. On Sunday she received a call that his eye was badly infected and we need to leave. Please pray for Dianne and her son Dean. We love you Rob and always wish you well. Love Adele and Dianne

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rob for this Journal - many in Prince Rupert who knew your family have been following your journey - especially "Well Enough" - with Love to all - Jean & Gordon

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rob for this Journal - many in Prince Rupert who knew your family have been following your journey - especially "Well Enough" - with Love to all - Jean & Gordon