Mindfulness in Alcohol and Cancer Recovery

Emma, Grace, and I up at The Fly along the Mississippi River in New Orleans

I got some good news from my oncologist this week – the decision on beginning chemotherapy treatments will be put off till after the first of the year.  The reasons for the decision is that I remain largely asymptomatic, still not able to determine the primary source of the cancer, the relative density of the cancer in my bones, all balanced against my goals for life and treatment.  In terms of life goals, I want to continue engaging with my family and friends, ride my bike, work in the garden, and write.  I discussed with the oncologist when I got to the point I could no longer get out of bed in the morning and sit on the back porch, it was time to stop treatment.

I will have another round of scans after the first of the year to determine any changes in the cancer.  In the interim, my oncologist noted my need to vigilant for any sudden physical changes or new pains that might indicate further bone deterioration/fractures and emphatically reminded me that I have a Stage 4 cancer.  I will continue my routine of monthly bone hardening injections.

I came out of the office renewed and elated.  I realized when one has a total prognosis of 2-3 years of life, a three-month reprieve is a substantive chunk of that time.  When writing in my morning pages the next day I reflected on my general increased “attitude of gratitude” since receiving my first cancer diagnosis, but also something new.

The one-day-at-a-time perspective that I have lived in my sobriety over the years continues to take on new and profound meaning today.  I was certainly not looking forward to beginning chemotherapy, which I thought would be the outcome of my Wednesday oncology appointment.  Instead, after discussing the evidence from medical tests and my life goals, another  plan was set.  I have at least a 10-week reprieve from the chemo and those impacts on my day-to-day existence.  I wrote in my morning pages about how I don’t want to be sitting here after the first of the year under the influence of chemo, wishing I had done x, y, and z in the previous couple of months.

I thought how this is not a matter of a hyper activity, running a race to get things done.  Rather, I reflected more on the lessons from a current book study I am in (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness by Amy Oden).  I need only commit to being mindful of how I spend the rest of 2017.  If that means nothing more than a regular walking schedule with Emma (wife) and Grace (dog), that is good.  If it means sitting on the back porch and focusing on how green the vegetation is, that is good.  If it means, completing another journal article on our Peru work, that is good too.  And so forth.

I am interested only in being able to look back on any given day and thinking “I really enjoyed sitting on the back porch, hacking through more of our backyard jungle, watching the sun go down up at the fly, or working on the article” and not “Where did those 24 hours go?”

In this way, the one-day-at-a-time perspective I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous is the basis for my cancer therapy today!

9 thoughts on “Mindfulness in Alcohol and Cancer Recovery

  1. I’m really amazed at your positive outlook..If it was me, I don’t know if I could be so positive but, who knows until it happens. Hang in there.

  2. Robert, I sure am glad to have had the opportunity to meet you while y’all were in Memphis. Your presence and thoughtfulness continues to enrich my life. Many blessings for you and Emma. You have my prayers.

  3. Happy that you’ll be able to enjoy the Holiday season! BTW, is that the “morning pages” from “The Artist’s Way?” I think I might take that up again. Thanks for the reminder, and for your refreshing outlook on life.

    • Yes, on artist’s way morning pages. I am in a book study now of her latest version of that process called “It’s Never Too Late” as she continues to reinvent that artists way process. I have done the morning pages at different times over the past 20 or so years and find that have worked very well in recent years.

  4. Good morning Robert,
    I was so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but glad to read of the delay in chemo. So many recent diagnoses of cancer in so many close friends & family these days. Blehhhh. We sat on our deck on Sunday with Jackie & Avery for some bear-sightings. Lovely afternoon with lovely people. Would love to have a reunion in NOLA with you all!

    • Joye,

      Great to hear from you all. Thanks for your kind words and support. Please do let us know if you get down this way – no bear but I swear from our porch I see monkeys in the palm tree in the backyard.

  5. Pingback: With a New Lease on Life, I Still Have to Pay the Rent. | Process Not An Event

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