Tomorrow is another day

The author with her constant little caregiver.

I believe that good is manifested from every experience that comes into our lives. Cancer is not a death sentence and I’ve been battling it for ten years, six months and twenty-nine days in the only way I know— living one day at a time.

It was supposed to be a quick scene, a satisfying interlude that HMO, a prepaid health plan, whose protocol legislated the length of time that a doctor would spend with the patient visit, ruled.

There was a soft knock on the door and the oncologist entered. She greeted me and then spent a few minutes sitting quietly and reading the lab results and x-rays I had brought with me. Then she leaned toward me and said “Tell me, why you’ve come.”

A fleeting moment can paralyze ones capacity to think and feel.  I looked into her face and saw a genuine concern. I began telling her all the things I was experiencing, from the most commonplace and finally to strange feelings that often woke me from my sleep.  My voice shook as I started telling her that in my illness, I discovered a basic truth:  There are only two kinds of people in this whole world, those who are alive and those who are afraid — and one of the attending doctors had ordered that I cannot be afraid for the next two weeks, as I undergo more comprehensive tests, that I have to think of a second response after fear. 

Can Carl Jung, founder of psychoanalysis give me an answer? Can you think when you’re filled with resentment, self-pity and a sense of victimhood?

She continued to listen and I began to review my life — looking at the many important relations, experiences as I could remember, thinking of the people I loved; realizing that while I was certain that I have disappointed and even hurt people in the course of my life, I could not remember deliberately causing pain or harm, hating anyone or even telling a significant lie.  I didn’t forget to mention that I had that special blessing of someone to love.  Life’s elegance that far exceeds anything we might device, and all the sickness, pain, love, loss and triumph only deepened my capacity for compassion and loving kindness.  I have even learned to forgive those that had mercilessly hurt me, even if it lowered my standards.

Eventually I said, “But why doctor, I suffer unseen and alone?”  And then I just cried, my eyes stung with tears! I felt profoundly diminished, different and even ashamed, my heart a storm of loss.

It took me nine or ten minutes to tell my whole story. The doctor said nothing to interrupt and just listened closely. When I finished, she asked a few questions that showed me she had heard and fully understood. Then she reached for my hand and told me that she realized how hard things were. She validated my concerns.  She reminded me that my lab studies had ruled out any life-threatening possibilities.  My affliction assured and declared more clearly when they did a surgical solution, radiation and chemotherapy.

In the mean time, back to my heart companion, as I relayed the events; he looked at me and smiled.  “We will wait together,” he assured me.

He had no diagnosis, unlike the others.  What he offered me was his care and companionship, his willingness to face the unknown with me. He assured me I had no expiration date.

In those moments, he had lifted the loneliness that had separated me from others and my own strength.  In some way that I did not understand then, this made all the difference.

Someone else knew. Someone else cared. And because of these, I found I had the greater courage to deal with what ever was going to happen, even gratitude…until tomorrow comes.

The only sure thing about tomorrow is that it will arrive.

And I’ll be alive to greet it.


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