Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Internal Parallel Universe of Cancer

I read in this morning's New York Times,

"Perhaps if we looked at cancers using appropriate conceptual lenses, we might find that tumors possess their own anatomy and physiology — a parallel universe to that of normal cells and organs. Such a tumor can hardly be described as a disorganized group of cells. It is a cellular empire, with its own sustenance, grammar, logic and organization. It is a growing being within a growing being."

Here's a link to the entire article:

What is the appropriate conceptual lens for what sometimes feels like my evil twin? I struggle with the way to view my cancer. Is "my" even the correct term? Does it harm me to think of it as evil? Is it bad to call it "it"? Does it belong to me? Is it actually me since I grew it out of my own cells? Or have I been invaded by an alien? If this cancer is "a growing being" within me, another growing being, does that mean I am its mother? I don't feel maternal or protective of it. In fact, if I had a chance, I'd get rid of it! (Perhaps this is another good reason I'm not a mother. Sorry, Rose - see my Nov 9, 2009 blog entry for that story).

Choosing a conceptual lens feels important to me. I spend a lot of time in meditation, visualization, or what I prefer to call creative imagination inquiring about the nature of my physiology and anatomy, exploring the state of my body as a host for this unwanted visitor, and hoping to find a way to make my internal environment unwelcome for cancer, while being very welcoming for the rest of me.

I have never resonated with battle analogies. It doesn't feel right to spend a lot of time trying to kill my cancer. There might be too much collateral damage. I feel violated enough; I can't withstand any more violence. I tend to be more comfortable with the idea of withholding the unwanted cancer's main fertilizer (estrogen) and making my internal milieu unwelcoming for cancer. How can I feed myself, but deprive my tumors of what they need? I feel like I'm doing this with my diet, my supplement regimen, with hands-on work, with Continuum, with movement and breath, with mindfulness, with acupuncture, and I have sacrificed my own desire and need for estrogen in the pursuit of eradicating or controlling things. So far it all seems to be working.

Jim Jealous, an Osteopathic teacher of mine used to say, "When you find yourself in a rat's nest, don't play with the rat." I'm minding his words, and attempting to address the atmosphere or the environment in which the rat lives. Maybe if I turn on all the lights and air out the nest, the rat will choose to leave.

Until this morning I never considered my cancerous parallel universe from this particular angle. I have to admit it's a bit frightening. But it feels like time to be courageous and go on a new reconnaissance mission. I need to more deeply understand the sustenance, grammar, logic and organization of this growing being within me.

The following paragraph can only be understood by my fellow sci-fi geeks. If you want to understand what I'm talking about, you'll have to watch Battlestar Gallactica (2004 - 2010), starting from the pilot episode and watch all 5 seasons in order, then begin watching Caprica. These must be watched in order, in order to understand the story.
This is where my lifelong love of science fiction pays off. Exploration of inner space is far more vast than of outer space, but requires a similar ability to face the unknown. I have a seemingly unlimited source of inspiration with which to enter this exploration. It's not Star Trek's "final frontier." It's a little more like Battlestar Gallactica where the aliens and the humans look alike, and as it turns out, the aliens stem from the consciousness of a 15 year-old girl named Zoe corrupted by an experiment gone awry. Are the Cylons really the cancer of the human race or their savior? BG was not about battle; it was about adaptation and the making of peace, the co-existence of humans with their shadow, and about the birth and evolution of something new. (BG stands for Battlestar Gallactica, not Bonnie Gintis. . . but maybe we're not that different.)

A Continuum dive is a lot like an episode of VR5 (1995), where the virtual reality turns out to be not so virtual. When Sydney enters the VR of the unconscious, things changed, and when she hung up the anachronistic phone, and passed back through the portal into the present, all of so-called reality was altered. (I'll pass on the conclusion of that series where she gets lost in VR9. I plan on coming back!)

I am on my last day of a week-long Continuum Teachers' Retreat. We have our last 5 1/2 hour dive today. I know where I'm going. . . deep into the cellular empire of the growing being within my being to discover what I need to know to co-exist, co-evolve, adapt, or find an as yet imagined way of thriving into the rest of my life.