State of Grace

It’s been a while since I have passed along an update on my health. I’ve recently received a few private inquiries, so here’s the dope:

As some are aware, I have liver cancer. Right now I feel fine. The last time I talked about this, I mentioned that I had undergone a procedure which “effectively treated” one of my tumors. That’s medical-speak for destroying one of my tumors. I have another tumor, which more frequently than it used to, let’s me know it is there with small intermittent pain. I am supposed to have surgery, a resection, where they will cut the tumor out and then it will be history, too.

I want to have this surgery about as much as I’d like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Not to mention that very idea of being cut open is, to me, scary. And, I’ll be spending about a week in the hospital. But I don’t have much choice.

My real problem at this point is dealing with the medical center. I had a consultation with the surgeon who would perform the surgery on Nov. 29th, and here it is 2 ½ months later, and they still have not scheduled it. I was approved for a transplant in September and yet they did not submit my case to the insurance company for the financial go ahead until just a few weeks ago, some 5 months later. While I realize that I am just one of 250 or so transplant patients the medical center is dealing with, at the same time, this is not like I’m taking my car into the shop for a tune-up. It’s a life and death deal here, and I don’t know how much longer I can go on making allowances for this lack of action, lack of communication, misinformation, etc. (I’ve described only the tip of the iceberg.)

So, that’s the story. I haven’t discussed it much on the blog mainly because I am not completely comfortable putting my business out in public for the whole world to read, although, it is an extremely tiny portion of the world that reads this blog. I am a rather private person by nature and that’s why I don’t waste a lot of space here discussing myself.

But, if things don’t improve with the medical center, I will be very tempted to “out” them and then I will have a lot to say on the subject.

I wish I had an insightful Buddhist perspective to offer about this, but I don’t. It is what is it is: dukkha. Suffering. I think about a passage in the Vajradhvaja Sutra where it says that the heroism of a Bodhisattva is found in the practice of “not being troubled by suffering, by ability to take pleasure in the giving.” To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, I’m no hero, that’s understood, all the redemption I can offer is in my words, here on this blog. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my suffering, ruminating over the fact that I have cancer. I am trying to live my life without letting cancer control it. Some might see that as a form of denial, and perhaps there is a grain of truth there. Yet, in most cases, suffering only has power to defeat us when we give suffering that power. I may end up physically defeated by cancer, but I refuse to let the suffering itself control my mind and spirit. That’s how I see transcendence.

And The Endless Further blog is a form of giving, and I do take some small amount of pleasure in knowing that a few folks find what I write on it worthwhile and helpful.

Here’s a song I wrote and recorded in 2002. I made it into a video last night. Apparently, I was not in much of a Bodhisattva frame of mind when I composed the lyrics, but it more or less captures the spirit of what I’ve been trying to say here at the end.


11 thoughts on “State of Grace

  1. I’m sorry you’ve been having to deal with this, the cancer and the medical world. I can’t imagine. Words fall short.
    I hope you find wellness through this, and it sounds as if you already have.
    Much love to you.

    1. Thank you, Chelsy, for your sweet comment. Wellness of body may be elusive at this point, but hopefully I have found some wellness of mind, and that is half the battle. Best to you.

  2. Equanimity and acceptance of reality as it is are both wondrous gifts, as is the ability to refocus on how to be of service to the world rather than indulge in self-pity. On the other hand (and there always is an other hand) you need to fight as if your life is at stake — which it most certainly is. Your medical support system has been/is being shamelessly negligent, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit for causing as much trouble for them as you possibly can. Remember ACT UP? The trick is to do this with bifocal vision — doing whatever is necessary to help wake your medical team up from their slumber– and at the same time letting the anger be a tactic in the fight, but not something that consumes you or destroys an unshakable inner equanimity. It’s a neat trick, but we Buddhists have a leg up on the process, understanding both the absolute and the relative and attempting to live at the crosshairs of each. Much love to you!

    1. Equanimity within certain moments is sometimes a challenge for me. I have unleashed the power of my irritation a few times, like when the surgeon showed up two hours late for the consultation. The satisfaction that sort of acting up brings is extremely short-lived and only breeds regret on my part and resentment (probably) on theirs. Regardless of how I reacted in the moment three months ago, it doesn’t excuse the fact that I left them a message three weeks ago asking about this surgery and haven’t heard a word from them since. It looks like I will have to do what I did last August when I got fed up with the ten months that the normally six week transplant evaluation process was taking, and go over everyone’s head and contact the director’s office. That got some action. I don’t really want to cause trouble. Things are so much easier without it. But it just seems a bit unreasonable that I should have to fight two battles, one with the medical establishment and the other with the cancer. However, I know that I am not the first or only person to go through this sort of thing. Anyway, thanks Seth.

  3. “…suffering only has power to defeat us when we give suffering that power. I may end up physically defeated by cancer, but I refuse to let the suffering itself control my mind and spirit. That’s how I see transcendence”: Beautifully put.

    What a great song!

  4. Dear David, we read your posts about buddhism but first of all we read you. So, write down wathever you feel like writing – we’ll be here.

    Um grande abraço pra você!

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