Friday, September 19, 2014

Letting Go Of Other People's Choices.

This past summer, Robert and I had a fantastic garden on the rooftop terrace - many residents of the building spoke about how much they enjoyed it.

In the last 3 weeks, someone has started stealing the plants, we've lost 6 very nice perennials, and who knows how many  more will go - it's easy pickings, we can't be out there 24 hours a day guarding the plants.  Last night, instead of taking both pot and plant, someone just dug up the plant, took it, and left the pot.

The first day I realised that plants were missing, I was shocked, but managed to let it go fairly quickly. The second time, about two weeks later, I was furious, frustrated, resentful, and all sorts of other unpleasant feelings. As I was walking down the hall to my apartment a short time later, I asked my Higher Power, "Please help me with this."

That has evolved to be pretty much the only prayer I use anymore, my HP doesn't need details, and going over them just brings up sad feelings for the realisation that some folks are thieves, and given an opportunity, they will steal. This is beyond my control. I can't change anyone but myself: if this person chooses to be a thief, I cannot stop them.

That's an unfortunate fact of life. What's my choice in this kind of situation?

I can either seethe and fume, thinking about it time and again, bringing my feelings to a boil and keeping them there, for hours, days, or weeks at a time, or I can ask my HP for help, and choose to let it go. Having cancer concentrates one's mind wonderfully in this kind of situation - I don't know how much time I have left on this earth, and I don't want to spend it in anger, resentment and revengeful feelings.

I choose serenity, and if I have trouble letting go on my own, I ask for help, and always, always receive it. After the second operation, I wasn't asking for help, I was in such shock from the terminal diagnosis.

As it turned out, I'm not terminal, I'm one stage before that, and people have lived with it for years at this stage. Robert's sister was terminal when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but with the help of chemo, had three good years with her family before nothing more could be done. So, I'm hopeful, as she was further along the path than I.

The surgeon made a second pronouncement about what I would and would not be capable of, and that too has proven incorrect, but we believed him, he's at the top of his field in this area, so it took me a couple of weeks to realise that I was shutting my HP out. It wasn't from anger or resentment, but a result of overwhelming pain and sorrow. I was obsessing, mourning and grieving, and I was trying to do it on my own.

I'd look at my beloved Robert and see the agony in his face, see how he had lost his usual peaceful, witty, relaxed attitude, realise that he too was grieving terribly, and it mirrored my own state of mind.

 We suffered from May 9th until June 6th, our first meeting with the oncologist I liked. The first one we met was not a good fit for either of us, so I'd asked to be assigned another doctor, and they got me into see her within a week. We both liked her immediately, and she was the one who said firmly that I am not terminal, it's not in any of my major organs, just my lymph nodes, and she couldn't understand why the surgeon would say I was terminal when he did the operation and stated in his report to Cancer Care that I had no metastases to any major organs.

I've talked to quite a few nurses and doctors since then, and it's fascinating to be told that surgical mentality is like no other, it's tunnel vision, they all seem to have enormous egos, and need them, in order to be able to do what they do.

As my GP said to me, in his inimitable British way: "If you had a small mole on your arm which was annoying you, I could give you a shot of local anaesthetic, and nip it off, but to take a scalpel and begin carving you up? I realised very quickly in medical school that I just don't have the temperament or the ego to be able to do that."

I've let go of my anger with the surgeon for scaring us, but I am going to send a letter asking him to consider referring people to specialists, rather than make pronouncements after a surgery, when the patient is first awake, which are taken to heart by the patient, but may be a mistake, as both  mine were.

I've ranged far afield from the start of this post, but it's all about lack of control, and the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
 the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I need to always remember not to make a medical "expert" my higher power! I also very much identified with your fuming about the plant thief (really, how low can you go!); it's comparable to a situation I'm in with someone I work with. Having trouble letting go of her behavior. But of course I can.

  2. I think that having a diagnosis of cancer is enough without laying on a heavy terminal diagnosis right after surgery. Positive attitudes can change recovery and can change how our bodies respond to diseases too. Glad that you are thinking with an attitude of gratitude and with positive thinking.