Sunday, June 2, 2013

More on the Dance of Cancer

What if we replaced the metaphor of a war on cancer with the more energizing and empowered image of a dance with cancer? In addition to releasing all the war and killing and aggressive language we could invite a sensibility of partnership, grace, joy and even humor into our experiences with cancer—whether we are the patient or the caregiver.

I know that one of the reasons we use battle language is that we see cancer as an aggressive enemy but we often forget that in that militaristic dynamic we are also describing our own body as the enemy. After all, cancer does not come from outside of us. These are our cells dividing and our immune system responding.

But what if we saw cancer treatment as a corrective to our good body? As a way to make deep and life altering changes to our deepest being? And it is that of course. And as caregivers we too are deeply changed by the experience of cancer in our family and in our relationship. And caregivers—you know this—are changed forever. Just as the patient is never the same again, so too a cancer caregiver can’t go back.

I’ve been thinking about the dance of cancer this week and wondering about what kind of dance it is. What I realized is that a very long course of cancer and caregiving requires many kinds of dances. Sometimes it’s a tango—strong and sensual. Sometimes a waltz when you are counting out a rhythm and moving together, and sometimes it is the Flamenco with a lot of stomping! And of course as in any full ballet there are the times when it can only be a solo experience, and then others when the caregiver and patient face each other in full traditional Adagio—forceful and aggressive and insistent.

This quote from Friedrich Nietzsche hangs over the altar in my bedroom:

“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”

Cancer too, gives us opportunities to dance.

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