It seemed fitting that on the longest, darkest day of the year, I had my oncology treatment and an appointment with my doctor. I was a bit apprehensive this time because I had my quarterly scans on Monday. These included a bone scan to check on the status of the cancer in my bones, a CT scan to check the lymph, lungs, liver and bones, and an echocardiogram to make sure that the drugs I receive every three weeks are not adversely affecting my heart. My oncologist is really good about making sure I get my test results as soon as possible, so when I saw the email Tuesday night that my test results were in, I opened the files with a little trepidation. What would I find? Would everything still be OK?
I was pretty sure it was going to be OK. I've been meditating on healing for a couple of weeks, and I had convinced myself that surely there would be a decrease, but at the very least everything would be totally stable. The test reports were not, however, unambiguously good. My heart was fine. There was nothing new with the bones. The lungs were stable. But there were some new lesions in the liver. This was not at all what I expected. I had been feeling so good! How could this possibly be true? As much as I try to maintain a sense of peace with things and accept things as they are, I did not find this news very peaceful at all. While my oncologist has often said that not every liver lesion is always cancer, I couldn't help but assume it was. My carefully constructed house did not have as firm a foundation as I had thought, and a sense of anxiety began to creep through the cracks. I found myself in momentary darkness as I thought about what that could mean. Would I have to go through more chemo again? Would I have to try some other kind of drugs?
I closed my eyes, and I went to all of the tools in my mindfulness toolbox. I practiced EFT tapping, where I tap on meridian points in the body while releasing anxiety and giving myself positive affirmations. I did some yoga sun salutations to release more pent-up anxiety. And I returned to my breath again and again over the next two days while I waited to hear what my oncologist would say. And by the time my appointment rolled around on Thursday morning, I was back to a sense of peace and calm. I knew I was OK, no matter what the scans said. I realized I had given away my power for a while to a scan report. Nothing had changed from Monday to Tuesday aside from a few little words. A few little blurry spots on a scan. I decided I didn't need to believe the scan. I still felt good. I still had everything I needed. I still had every reason to be happy. I still had every opportunity to make changes and take even better care of myself. Darkness would not win. It never does. All it takes is one small candle and darkness is gone.
My oncologist is a wonderful woman. She told me, "The people who read the scans - they don't know you. They don't know your history. They only see the scan and they make their report. But I know you, and I wasn't convinced". She didn't believe the scan results either, so she actually sat down herself with the radiologist to look at it carefully. They both agreed that it was not at all clear that these were new lesions and that I should not be worried.
So, we decided we are going to have another look in six weeks just to make sure, and then we moved on to talking about Christmas plans, vacation plans, and good movies we've seen, and what our favorite foods are. Because when you have known your oncologist for ten years, you move on to the the things that really matter like your family, your friends, and the things you love to do that make life enjoyable. And I knew that everything really was OK and that those dark thoughts were simply thoughts, and they could be banished with the smallest of lights. I lit my candle, and she added hers, and we both saw that there was more than enough light to make the darkness retreat.
It only takes the light of one candle to extinguish the darkness. We, each of us, have our own candles to contribute to dispel the darkness. Think of how much light we can create together when each one of us shares our light with one another.
The days do get dark. The nights can seem so long. But in the darkest of times, never forget that the light will always return.