Riding The Waves of Emotion When The Prognosis Isn’t Good

I’m the person who gets misty eyed in nature documentaries when the predator captures its prey. The shark eats the penguin, who eats small fish, who in turn eat the algae. When the shark dies, its body will decay and its nutrients will be adsorbed by the algae. It’s horrific and devastating, and it’s, quite simply, life.

But sometimes life can be heartbreaking. I feel sad when I pass roadkill, see a friend through a rough breakup, or discover someone’s crinkled twenty on the ground. I can’t go back in time and change any of these things.

My doctors are in a panic. The hospital who performed my PET-CT is apparently notorious for dropping the ball. Another doctor shared horror stories of the facility failing to inform patients of critical medical results, drastically altering the patient’s trajectory. When you’re talking about potential malignancy, a few months can be the difference between a long life and a lawsuit.

Four months ago today, my legs were steins filled up to the brim with radioactive activity–a sprinkling of soft tissue masses sucking all the sugary fuel into my legs, away from my slowly-starving organs.

Just under four months ago, my infectious disease doctor gave me permission to discontinue my anti-fungal medication. In medicine, no news is typically good news.

With steady titers after six months, perhaps it was simply an autoimmune response. If cocci was hiding in my body, those 75,000mg of fluconazole would surely have annihilated it.

Wouldn’t it have?

Today, I feel the way I do when I watch a helpless salmon leap joyously into the air, only to be unceremoniously crushed between the jaws of a hungry bear. It sucks. But I know that it’s a part of life.

I feel as if I’m observing my body from a safe distance, empathetically, with compassion.

Oh, you poor thing.

I know these things happen.

But it makes me sad to see you like this.

I didn’t realize how badly you were suffering.

The joint pain, the headaches, and the abdominal pain…are those? …oh, god...all along?

I wish I could alleviate your suffering; I wish I could make things better.

Over much of the last three weeks, I’ve felt the best I have in years. I’ve been hiking again, running, lifting, and attending yoga classes. Though slower, lighter, and with more intense focus, in my mind, I’m basically-recovered. I may be tired as all hell as my muscles plead for me to slow down, but I feel so very alive.

Yesterday, I completed a steep and rocky five-mile hike. I felt the breeze against my face, watched chipmunks scale the mountainside, and savored the sweet nectar of a fresh orange while looking out over the vast cityscape. I laughed, I smiled, and I felt such deep gratitude for my strong and sturdy legs.

I’m better, I thought as I peered off into the distance, hands extended upwards in victory. It’s gone. The infection is finally gone.

I keep being washed over with small waves of sadness. It’s not self-pity or despair, but instead a recognition of the body’s fragility–my own body’s fragility. There are some things that a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a positive mindset cannot protect us from.

It feels as if my body is a vessel which I’ve been entrusted to care for. It’s not me, but it’s the place I call my home. Across thirty years of ownership, I feel that I’ve done a pretty good job of caring for it.

And yet, sometimes the homes we tend to lovingly may be wiped away by floods, demolished by fire, or infested beyond repair. It’s, quite simply, life.

Sometimes a salmon will be caught by its tail and then violently thrash until free. She escapes and continues her journey upstream, carrying with her the scars and memory of the experience. Permanently tattooed into her very being is the message: I survived; I am a survivor.

When homes are lost, people often clear the ash to rebuild larger, safer, and more sound homes. Despite moments of sadness, families settle into the new circumstances. We survived, they tell themselves, and we had the courage to start over.

In Buddhism, there is a story of two arrows. A man is shot with one arrow, which represents inevitable physical pain. He them proceeds to shoot himself with a second arrow, representative of the optional mental anguish we often put ourselves through.

When we hurt, we don’t need to focus our energy on the pain, negativity, rejection, or fear. That will only cause additional, needless suffering.

If we so choose, we can release our attachment to our opinions about what’s going on in our lives and instead live in the present moment and ride the wave of life. We can decide to step out of our body for awhile and tend to its physicality without drowning in emotion, gasping helplessly through the currents of fear.

What an I trying to get across here? I’m not quite sure, to be honest.

If I had to guess, I think I’m trying to convince myself the infection has left my body since the scan was performed in September, even though the greater likelihood is that infection has spread and infiltrated further depths of my body. The rushed call from oncology and the recommended biopsies are simply precautionary–doctors covering their bases, insurance collecting their coins.

Feel the emotions, let them pass. Pluck out moments to be grateful for, and breath deeper when you struggle to find them. The self-talk has been ceaseless, as I’m volleyed between “this isn’t good” and “you’ll be okay.”

After a night of restlessness and worry, this morning I need the reminder that “this too shall pass,” that “I can’t control my reality, but I can control my response,” and that I’m strong enough to get through this. And I know that–whatever this thing is–I will.

15 thoughts on “Riding The Waves of Emotion When The Prognosis Isn’t Good

    1. Thanks for the internet hug. ❤ Yesterday, my doctor told me that if it was malignancy I'd be dead. Sooo, either I'm being dramatic or it's time to find a new doctor… probably both. I'm crossing my fingers that the new test show improvement too. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I’m really sorry to hear about this new shadow in your life – God knows, you deserve better! Maybe it is just another shadow, though, and it disappears once the light of knowledge, so to speak, is cast on it.

    Until then I would definitely pull the plug on as much as possible that does not strengthen you, and set aside more time for your meditation practice. And walking in nature. Those are the best remedies I have used in times of uncertainty with (more) illness (and we’ve had our share, in the family). You need to not deny your fear of a worst case-scenario but to be with it, until it is either confirmed or dispelled – or maybe changed to something unexpected.

    You resonate Buddhism and meditation, I gather, from reading your blog for a bit now, so use that source of strength to its fullest. Use it to connect, through stillness and walks, to that which is greater than you. And don’t be afraid to ask for guidance, and more strength to endure, and insight to understand – all of the things you need right now.

    It may not be your usual practice (spiritually) but I have found that something Really Does Happen when you take the step and ask … out there in the blue … for help. And if you already know that then don’t hesitate.

    All the best – and keep us in the know, please.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m hoping that it’s just a passing shadow. They say that fear is the child of ignorance; once I have a definitive answer on what is going on, I can begin taking steps forward. Until then, I’m trying to sit with the emotions without judgement–yes I feel a bit sad and scared, but that’s simply my experience in this very moment.

      I completely agree with your suggestions of meditation and walks in nature. I have not discovered anything more powerful than self-care, calming than sitting in silence, or awe-inspiring than time in nature. I have been very intentional about taking actions that will support my health, and it’s empowering (whether or not a new supplement, extra yoga class, or new test actually make any difference).

      I truly appreacite your suggestion on not being afried to ask for guidance. I’m not currently in the practice of asking for help–I think, contray to logic, the more vulnerable I feel, the more difficult it is to ask for help…from loved ones, or a higher power. I, perhaps, hadn’t realized it until just now, but much of my asking likely sounds like helpless pleas. If I don’t trust completely that some greater power is able and willing to bestow upon me guidance, strength and insight, how can I expect to actually recieve these things.

      Thank you so much for your insights and support! Hopefully good news is just around the corner. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you as well for sharing.

        You know, a therapist once said to me “you need to learn trust” – at a time when I was deeply depressed and on the verge of hospitalization at the psych ward. I scoffed. How the hell was I supposed to do that?! The answer, I have found was … one small experience at the time.

        One of the things I have since learned was that I would feel the most connected to God/The Divine/The Source/Etc. when I dared to play along with the notion that help had already been given and I only had to look for it. Oh, I tried for years those practices of meditating on this or affirming that and praying for something else to “be able to receive”. But I discovered it just didn’t work because I was just repeating the experience of disconnection. I had this idea, which is apparently rooted in the disconnection that is the existential basis for life in this world, that the angels were sort of standing there and waiting until I learned the correct way to pray or be trusting or whatever. And if I didn’t then they would not help me. That is, incidentally, also a subtle fear that keeps a healthy market out there for religions, self-help books and various gurus. But I digress …

        I think my best advice to you is that whenever you really need help from The Greater but feel too disconnected and searching for ‘the right way’ then try to imagine that it is already okay. Take a walk and say to yourself, ‘Okay, maybe I am not meditating in the right way yet for me to be able to receive God’s help etc. – but now I’ll just allow myself a 5 minute break and imagine that it has indeed happened. I can now receive. Now I will indulge myself and look in my surroundings for a synchronicity, an inspiration, anything that I believe God has already put there for me … ‘

        Does it make sense? I hope so. It is one of the best ways I have found to overcome that feeling of disconnection that also can make one feel like one has to ask in a specific way to get help. I have found it really helps to just allow yourself to dream, stilling your skeptical, conditional mind with that provision: ‘I know I’m probably not doing all the right things etc. etc. but now I will allow myself to get some energy by imagining that I have – just for a few minutes’. Those minutes can sometimes bring real good news.

        Let us know 🙂


      2. Thank you so much for this–it really resonated with me, both the idea existential disconnect and recognizing those moments of synchronicity. Nearly a decade ago, I stumbled across a meditation/affirmation audio and one particular line was repeated throughout and has stuck with me all this time: “It’s okay, help’s on the way. It’s okay, help’s on the way.” To this day, I find myself repeating that mantra in my head when I feel stuck, scared and overwhelmed.

        And yet, I am sometimes so pragmatic that I notice things, but don’t really “notice” them. Yesterday, I saw a bright rainbow spanning across the sky–it was stunning, but it was also an opportunity to assign meaning, to recognize a sign that I’m being looked after and guided. While it may, at times, feel indulgent or like a far reach, I think you’re absolutely correct. I imagine that giving ourselves permission to believe, sincerely, that we’ve done everything right and are being guided by some greater power would inspire hope, confidence, and sense of wellness that would long outlive those few minutes of mindfulness and imagination.

        Thank you so much for this. You helped me assemble several bits of wisdom into something cohesive and actionable that I truly believe will make a difference for me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m grateful to hear you say all that – not because of my contrib, whatever it has been. But because it sounds to me like you feel genuine hope, even if it is sometimes difficult to hold on to. With or without rainbows 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, while there are certainly moments of overwhelming frustration, I do have genuine hope. And I do believe, wholeheartedly, that I’m doing everything in my power (based on my current understanding) to heal my body, and I’m becoming more and more okay with that idea that it’s enough. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s really no getting around it. Waiting for test results are scary AF. Even the best of us feel a certain level of angst until we get answers. Sometimes I feel like the waiting is harder than actually getting the news, so I’m totally with you and will be sending up thoughts for good results and a smooth path forward!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so true–the waiting can be torturous, if we allow it to be. And it can be so hard to set the worries aside and simple accept, “this is where I am right now.” We’re scheduling a repeat PET scan so the surgeon will know where to biopsy, just in case things have shifted. While scary, there’s some comfort in knowing the next step. Thank you for the positive thoughts and love! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry you have to go through this, my friend. A man I greatly admired used to hold his wife tightly whenever she worried and say, “Give it to me. Give me your pain, your worries, your fear.” That’s all I feel after reading about your struggles. Give them to me and give yourself a breather. You’re in my thoughts. ❤️


    1. Wow, that is an absolutely beautiful story. And thank you. ❤ It's been overwhelming, but I'm trying to view this as an journey I need to go through in order to help someone (or many someone's) in the future. Taking that vantage point has made it easier to not only accept the state of my body, but to view this as a gift that I've yet to fully unwrap.


  4. I know this was a couple weeks ago, but I hope that you’re a healthier version of you now. I also really like the idea of not shooting oneself with that second arrow. So much of what we endure begins in the mind first and we forget that we have complete control of how long we dwell on it.


    1. I’m crawling closer and closer and closer to good health, thank you! ❤ It's such a simple yet profound truth–some things hurt, but we have the final say on how we allow it to affect us.

      Liked by 1 person

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