Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0454 - Forever

We watched a repeat episode of House tonight in which the Hugh Laurie character uttered another memorable quip: "Nearly dying changes everything forever...for two months." (see episode 44 Forever)

One of the sidebars in this episode has Foreman returning to the team after his near-death experience in the two previous episodes. House can't stand Foreman's banal happiness and determination not to let things bother him anymore. And, sure enough, by the end of the episode, Foreman is getting back to himself, beginning to fight with House again and struggling to regain something of what he lost during his own medical battle.

Hmmm. How illuminating to someone who has thought a great deal about death, about the lessons cancer brings to us, about what it means to re-evaluate what is important in life and in relationships. And how sad it is - or is it? - to agree with House and the reluctant Foreman that life does go on and we need to get back to the everyday aspects of our character and life. Sure, we should expect to find a fresh perspective from our suffering, but we can't live in the shadow of our near-death experience. As Cameron says to Foreman at one point, "When you live your life as if every day is a blessing, you're basically saying everyone else is shallow."

As I get further along the road to recovery from rectal cancer, I'm finding both that some things have changed irrevocably and some other things are gradually, inevitably, returning to where they were before treatment. During this process, there is both a sense of loss and gain. Some days, for instance, I lament that I am losing some of the intensity of gratitude for ordinary things. "Everyday above ground is a good day" just doesn't cut it like it did when I was in hospital with pulmonary embolii. And there are other days, when I find myself back in habits I thought I had surrendered.

But I am who I am. And living in the moment and being satisfied all the time isn't really the way I want to march into the future. Like Foreman, I am beginning to recover some of the feistiness that is the real Don Spencer. I am beginning to relish fighting battles that previously seemed unimportant when I was battling for my life.

But other things have changed forever. I'm not sure what they all are. I just know that in some ways I can never revert to the man I was before the day I received my diagnosis. Some of my friends and family will find some of the changes laudable, others not so much.

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