In December, I started having knee pain. I didn’t think too much about it, even though the pain was intense at times. I’ve had intermittent knee problems for some years, and figured it was probably arthritis or age. It went away after about a week, but then it came roaring back in January – deep throbbing pain that would not go away. I went to a couple of orthopedic surgeons and a rheumatologist. They discovered a lesion in my left femur. Possible cancerous. Possibly not, said one orthopedic oncologist.
The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy. Last Wednesday, they drilled a hole in my bone, went into the left femur, removed tissue from the lesion, and the pathologist on hand during the surgery declared it cancer. Metastasis, to be exact, cancer that spreads from one part of the body to other parts. We, meaning I and the doctors, thought all the cancer was removed when they took out my old liver and gave me a new one. But, I’m not getting that easy. There must have been some cancer cells hiding somewhere, perhaps in bone marrow.
Needless to say, having a hole drilled in your bone is extremely painful. They put a rod in to prevent fractures and make the leg weight bearing. Still, it hurts like hell and pain medication does not provide total relief.
Next is to get with the oncologist I worked with before and decide how to start fighting this thing. From what I understand there are three modes of treatment: radiation, chemotherapy, amputation.
And two battlefronts: the external one, involving the treatments I just mentioned, along with any others that might be available, and there is the inner front, the battlefield of bodymind and spirit. In future posts, as I did before, I plan to share a few of the highlights of my wayfaring through these stages of cancer.
I do have mixed feelings about putting my personal business in front of the public. But, ancient Buddhist texts describe two kinds of illness: those of the unenlightened, and those of the enlightened. The latter are for the purpose of providing opportunities to teach. I would never claim to be enlightened (I can pretty much guarantee you I’m not), nor am I egotistic enough to think I have much of anything to teach anyone. Yet, if sharing more of my healing journey can be of benefit to others, so be it.
My approach to inner healing is centered on the Healing Buddha (whose image appears in the new header above), and my way is a bit unorthodox. In Tibet, Medicine Buddha is among the Highest Yoga Tantra. I received a Medicine Buddha Empowerment from Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche in 2002, but I am not convinced that such empowerments are necessary.
In Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat (Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2009), Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that in Healing Buddha teachings, “The person has to practice Medicine Buddha and have a good heart, with a sincere wish to help others.”
That is the only requirement, and this sentiment fully captures the essence ofBuddhist practice. Just do it. Try to help others. All awakening stems from that.
Now, for some reason, the song, “Alone Again (Naturally)” has been in my head lately. There are some nice versions available (Sarah Vaughn, Diana Krall) but I chose the original because I liked it when it was first released and it has a beat. Since I started letting folks know about this new development, the most frequent response I have received from family and friends has been, “I am so sorry you have to go through this.” I’m sorry about it, too. It’s a real drag, and I am very tired of the pain, but what can I do? I got it. It’s mine. I own it. I have to heal it. Actually, that makes it sound as if cancer were something completely external. It’s not. I am the cancer. I have to heal myself.
I have to admit, though, there are times when I feel downhearted. So, dear readers, here is about the only self-pitying you will get from me, and it will be over in three minutes and forty-two seconds: