February 13, 2011

In Which Being Able to Laugh at Oneself Pays Off Tremendously

I've been informed by an old acquaintance that I am overdue for a blog entry. The mid-winter stretch is upon us and this of course makes daily life seem rather uneventful. I recently looked back at some of our blog entries living in China and re-realized how many "abnormal" things happened there on a daily basis. At the time it seemed normal enough, and blogging about it seemed very natural. I remember that one of my close friends remarked that either we had a very interesting life or we were just really good story tellers. I'm now of the opinion that it was the former. With the cancer thing slowing down and living back in North America, it seems like there is not much to write about.

This was never intended to be a Cancer Blog. It began primarily as a way for us to relate our lives in China to our faraway friends and family. I really disliked the idea of writing group emails or of having to explain the same things over and over again to different people.

Cancer blog is not a bad thing. In fact I think our readership probably multiplied by a factor of ten or so. It was a little overwhelming when I suddenly realized that we had acquaintances of acquaintances reading, or people that James or I not seen for ten years or so reading it. For a while I was receiving emails almost daily from people that I didn't even know saying that they were reading and praying. I wondered then, as I occasionally still wonder now, what it was about my story that made it more interesting than the thousands (dare I say millions) of other cancer victims out there. Or better put, what is there interesting to read about cancer? What person whose life is untouched by cancer really wants to read about another person's life that is (and a stranger at that)?

Nonetheless, this blog fell into its new role as Cancer Blog. As in China, there was plenty to write about... changing emotions, thoughts about the future, new treatment plans etc, etc. These things have not ceased, but they have markedly slowed down, and they have also had a decreasing impact on our lives. With the continued and growing knowledge that God continues to be God, despite my physical health, the fact that I have a brain tumor has slowly lost its power in our lives. Its not something we spend hours thinking about anymore, even though its medical prognosis over our lives has not changed. Theoretically, I'm still dying. But I do spend hours basking in the Truth that I have in God; that I am not afraid of Death, nor am I afraid of Life.

So now what to write about? Do I write just for the sake of writing? That sounds boring.

James and I have fallen back into a very precious niche of ours, one we've had since we started dating. That is, dreaming about our future. I have mentioned before that this kind of dreaming is not an attempt to escape the present, it is merely an manifestation of the level of excitement we have for our lives. While I live, we intend to LIVE, not limit. Our most recent dreams have included: James doing an internship with the FAO in a few years (which would require us living in Rome), me in Med School (as you already know), or me doing an dietetic internship with the Dietitians of Canada.

Dreaming is just so darn fun! So many of the fun things we have already done started with the seed of a dream. Dreaming is often stigmatized as not being realistic. In our case especially, I think that some people would accuse us of being escapists. Recently, I asked the Dean of my university department to refer me for a dietetic internship. He agreed, but first he sat and talked with me in his office for close to an hour about my health condition and how I was doing emotionally. I suspect that he wanted to determine for himself if my optimism was a carefully crafted front, and if the peace that I display was genuine before referring me. What resulted was an extremely open discussion where both of us walked away feeling encouraged. I viewed it as an unexpected blessing. How many people walk away from a hour meeting with a University dean feeling spiritually encouraged?

In both Christian and non-Christian circles, there is a lot of discussion about the power of positive thinking. I agree, certainly, but my version of it is just to keep on living. We can talk about being positive, or we can just live positively. However, I don't think that positive thinking means rejecting the negative or rejecting Death. That would just be denial. Rather, I think that keeping a view of Death in our lives lends a certain sharpness and acuity to the way we live. In all of our dreams now, James and I always leave room for death. But this does not make us sad.

So we live by dreaming, and we also live in the day to day. There is a lot in the day to day that is also makes us feel very ALIVE. For example, two days ago, I had to go from the University of Manitoba to Victoria Hospital to get some routine blood work done. These two institutions are practically side by side, but in order to get to the hospital, you have to walk all the way to Pembina Highway, which then travels by the longest route possible back to the hospital( at least a 20 minute walk). As I walked the route, I couldn't help but noticing how close the hospital looked just across the field of snow. Impulsively, I took the road less travelled by (aka, there was no road, only a field of untouched hip deep snow).

It started out okay, it seems that one person had travelled part of the way through the field (but then wisely stopped), so I followed in their tracks. When I came to the unbroken snow, it looked hard enough to walk on top, so I gingerly tried to lift myself above the snowy depths. But then I started breaking through the snow up to my hips! We're talking Peter trying to walk on water here. Try as I might, I could not get back onto the surface of the snow, so I treaded through the snow, giggling to myself at how ridiculous I must look! Then my Canadian breeding kicked in, "If only I can increase my surface area, I can stay on top of the snow!". Half the field left to go and the hospital looked closer than ever! Perseverance Jessica! I spread myself out on my stomach and crawled commando style across the snow (still breaking through), clearly visible from two major roads, the hospital windows towering above the field and to the construction workers just across the... fence (oh no!).

At this point I was laughing out loud hysterically at myself and pouring with sweat. A grown adult, mother, nutritionist, and cancer patient unsuccessfully commando crawling over an open field and covered in snow, just for the sake of saving a few minutes! Finally I made it to the last impediment... the chain link fence (complete with wire ends at the top for the express purpose of deterring people like me). But I was not to be deterred. Going back now would mean going through the field again AND walking twenty minutes. And the hospital was right there!

Climbing over a fence is challenging at any time, but far more so when wearing thick winter boots and fighting to rise above the hip-deep snow that sucks you down. I finally made it up to the top, where I hovered on the spikes while preparing to throw my weight in one last concerted effort over the fence. After all, if I got hurt, I was already on my way to the hospital (how convenient!)

Rrrrip! Not my flesh thank goodness, but a large patch of my pants and long underwear had ripped open to the skin! Jessica's thigh exposed to the world! Walking the remaining ten feet to the hospital on concrete, open jeans flapping with each step, I momentarily experienced a sensation of "I wish I hadn't done that". But I quickly brushed it aside and proceeded to go to the blood lab in the hospital, ripped pants and all.

Anyone reading this story will have the same reaction that James did, "Why did you do that?". But, as ridiculous as it was, I hold that it was extremely fun laughing by myself as I crawled through the snow. Personally, I think it is a great example of enjoying living and feeling ALIVE.

Would I do it again? Probably not!


derrydown said...

Your description of the winter shortcut reminds me so much of the ordeal of putting census bags on doors last winter! We have so many vacation homes in our area, which are not plowed out, but they needed bags too. I think I went home two or three times a day to change my snow-caked clothes.
I love your dreams! Keep on dreaming and doing.
Reading white letters on black makes my eyes hurt...

Cindy said...

You gave me a good laugh today, Jessica! Your title certainly is true. :)

Sarah Walker said...

Haha!! I love this! Everything about it! This is the Jessica I know!:) Why not tread through the snow covered field to come to a chain linked fence? Why not?! I miss you!