Written on January 9, 2016, Samara, Costa Rica
I didn't think i would be blogging about a personal experience with respect to "Living and Dying" on my website, "Helping you Thrive Organically". Finally, I decided that nothing could be more organic than these two states. So here goes.
In April 2015, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic/liver cancer. As in most cases, this type of cancer is discovered in a very advanced stage so that chances of survival are slim. We were told 35 per cent.
Her choices were chemotherapy or alternative medicine. She chose chemotherapy. It is an agonizing process to watch someone live through this treatment. Some of the symptoms include vomiting up your insides, becoming debilitatingly weak, having your hair fall out, to name a few.
Initially, I had planned to relocate about two hours away from Toronto but on learning of this diagnosis, I returned home to help my dad take care of Mom.
How did we handle this? I asked her to go "organic", that is, all organic food including cleaning products etc. She agreed. Second, we prayed together, my Muslim mother, atheist father and Christian me. We prayed nightly to ask God to heal my mom. When we learned a few months later, that her markers were going down, we celebrated and continued to pray.
Eight months later, after a CT scan, her oncologist said the tumors had shrunk significantly and that she could take a break from chemo for 3 months. At the time of this writing, it has been 2 1/2 months. Indeed, she is regaining her strength and her hair has started to grow. We are so thankful.
On learning this wonderful news, I scheduled a trip to Costa Rica for a few weeks. Yet, when I arrive, all I am capable of doing is crying. It has been 5 days and I cannot stop crying.
I had brought my Bible and turned to it for solace--exactly what had happened on my last winter trip to Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a way of sending me to the Bible:). The last trip was to get over a broken relationship. Who goes away and reads their Bible for days on end. I had had images of me surfing, not glued to my Bible.
Granted, the waves are non-existent. It was as if the Bible was searching for me since everything I was reading resonated with my questions and my feelings.
One day, a friend, Maria, popped in to visit and she could see that I had been crying. She asked me what was wrong. I told her about Mom's journey with cancer and the remission. She then asked me why I was crying. I realized that deep down I was worrying about the return of this aggressive cancer.
Maria then told me that her father had died from pancreatic cancer and her mother was now diagnosed with it. Whaaat? Is this thing contagious?
Maria then recounted a devastating experience that had occurred 10 years ago which left her with so much emotional pain that she cried incessantly for over a month. One day, she decided to seek sanctuary and ask God for help. She spoke and prayed. Then cried for 3 hours. Then, wiped the tears and decided to leave the situation with Him. She said the peace that followed her from that moment on has stayed, apparently.
She asked me to do the same.
I told her that I didn't know how to let go and have such Faith. I do believe in God but I realized I didn't have the faith to trust in my own belief, to trust that He would take care of me (plus, I was secretly scared He would ask me to martyr myself like some of the characters in the Bible).
Yet, the idea of finding Daily Peace and ending Constant Worry was appealing. I let myself sink into the idea much like diving into a calm ocean as the salt water washed over me.
Maybe, like yoga or any other practice, letting go is a daily commitment. In this case, Maria had asked me to pray and leave it in God's hands. So I committed.
I prayed, and meditated on biblical verses such as "Love thy neighbor as thyself". I contemplated the "thyself" part. Had i given myself permission to love myself in my own life? And if I hadn't, "Had I been able to love others enough"? Not just topically but truly. The process of meditating on loving myself and, eventually, being able to love those who need my love and help was a "light bulb" experience. The world is rampant with strife and hatred, but, we also see many examples of love and kindness. What if, even I, as only one unit, could add to that love and kindness?
Later that evening, I met with a couple who I had sat next to during my flight down from Toronto to Costa Rica. Nicolas and Jessie had travelled to a few other places in Costa Rica and were now driving down the Nicoya Peninsula. We agreed to meet at a local restaurant.
During our conversation, Jessie disclosed that part of her reason for this particular trip was the recent and sudden death of her father. She started to cry. So did I. Jessie said it pained her that she had missed the opportunity to tell her father how much she loved him. I consoled her by saying I was sure that he knew but she insisted that it would have been meaningful for her to say it. She urged me to tell my Mom this on my return to Toronto.
As humans, we are gifted with speech and have the ability to hurt or to uplift with our words. Maybe Jessie had a point.
I had never been able to accept that death was a possibility for my mother. I encouraged her to commit to the physical, mental and spiritual reforms we read about that were applicable to cancer situations yet, I had never really "talked" to her from the heart for fear that I would mentally break down. Only when I was away and traveling, could I really let the tears flow.
As I write this, eight days after my arrival in Costa Rica, and allow the tears to flow once again, I pledge that on my return to Toronto, I will "talk" to my Mom, from the heart. I have shown my love by being practical and now it's time for me to "listen" to her and to say, "I love you" and "I am scared" but "we are here for each other always".
"Thriving Organically" has taken on a new meaning for me it. It's not only about adding a new hobby or satisfying my own pleasures, be they healthy or not. It has come to mean, "showing love even when it hurts, especially when it hurts". It has come to mean "love myself". It has come to mean, "start with a power way Higher than me".
I came to Costa Rica to escape winter, take a break from Mom's illness, surf and be happy. I succeeded in the first two, the third was, well, an act of God (no waves) :) and I was seriously unsuccessful with the last one.
Today, Friday, January 9, 2016, I experience peace again, much like the last time I had left Costa Rica, in April 2015 (just a few weeks before my mom's cancer diagnosis).
Arriving at the sensation of internal peace is a daily practice. And the method of arrival is different for each person. For me, it is a full-time relationship with God. Another piece of the puzzle to me "thriving organically".
Thank you to:
Jessie - for your advice.
Maria - for your understanding and sharing which comforted me and set me on a new path to strengthening my faith
Costa Rica - You always uplift me! Your heat is a blast literally, yet your beauty quietly soothing and your people one of a kind.