Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Unwanted Journey - Day 0298 - Stories

Thursday, I was fortunate to have a long visit with my mother and father, my brother, and my cousin and her husband. The latter had traveled to Barrie all the way from Bogota, Columbia. In fact, it was the first time that I had been able to visit with her since she was married 19 years ago. It was a good day, even though I found the driving up to Barrie and back again to Kitchener quite tiring.

We all were telling stories on Thursday, stories about buying land outside Bogota, stories about my parents' trip in the car to Calgary and Vancouver and back again, and, naturally, stories about my unwanted journey. It's fascinating to realize just how important stories are to how we communicate with one another. Stories aren't the only way to communicate, but they sure are an effective means to do so.

One of the things I like about stories is their open-endedness. Stories honour the listener by allowing them to participate and to interpret in their own highly personal ways. Stories don't tell someone how to think. Stories don't lecture. They are implicit invitations to join in.

By way of example, my cousin and I were talking for awhile about their ministry in South America. She and her husband are managers of a Christian missionary program in which teams of young people go into churches and present dramas. In other words, they act out stories. Now I'm not a big fan of sermons in churches. They are far too didactic and preachy for my liking these days. But tell a story or put on a dramatic presentation and I'm right there with you.

Obviously, my blog is mostly about a story line these days. In fact, some good friends tell me that they only read the blogs in which I am telling a story. They're not particularly interested in scientific studies and research.

Fair enough. But even though I would argue those other entries have their place and are useful to other people, I have to admit that most family and friends are better served by blog entries in which I tell a story, whether it be a narrative about surgical complications, about medical mistakes, about the generosity of particular individuals (thanks, Ron, for the great book), about how I've been feeling, even about ways in which my unwanted journey has revealed truths to me that I would otherwise never have learned.

Cancer, when viewed medically or scientifically, is all about harsh material realities. Cancer, when viewed internally or socially, is all about stories. It's about how I as an individual or we as a community generate meaning through the shared drama of cancer. Yes, that's right. One perspective of cancer is that it is a narrative. In that sense, the story line of cancer can be if not always enjoyable, at least meaningful and memorable.

2 comments:

The.Yurkiws said...

For all that cancer is a horrendous disease, we always have to remember that our story is not ours to determine. My father, who died of cancer a number of year ago, is one whose story was larger than his disease. He was an Anglican priest, diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 6 months survival. Being an obstinante man, he lived 4.5 years, during that time, he was a chaplin at a vet hospital as he served during WWII. I remember one day at the cancer clinic seeing a number of medical students looking at his xrays and being asked their opinion of his condition. They all felt that he was on death's door. In fact he informed everyone, after his oconolgist asked what his day was going to include, that he was going to leave the cancer unit that day and counsel the vets and staff of the vet hospital about the significant changes that they were going to go through as their physical plant was changing. At the time I was shocked and scared that he was not focusing on himself but on others. Later, I was to realize that sometimes when we focus on others, it gives our body a chance to relax and heal (if only a little) itself. Don, your struggle has had an impact on a huge number of people, and i applaud your forthrightness about the ordeal. Although you might not realise your impact, I am sure that it is huge.

Sharing your experiences can be trying, I am sure, but know that some one out there is finding comfort and strenght through them.

God's job for you in this life is not complete. Continue on your journey!!

Don Spencer said...

You got me thinking that it was finally time to address "the God question" explicitly, something which I did on Day 0299.

Thank you for sharing the story about your father and his experience with cancer. I wish I could have known him. And I really understand what you mean about focusing on others. It took time for me, after surgery, to get to that place once again where other people were on the radar.

I do hope that those who read my blog are deriving benefits. From private correspondence and the occasional comment online, I think that it is. Thank you, once again, to The.Yurkiws for writing.