Monday, February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007 - Trouble Enough

I’ve been encouraged to learn, in recent days, about a new cancer-related service organization that will soon be opening a facility in our area. The Wellness Community is a national organization that provides supportive services to cancer survivors and their families. The new facility, The Diney-Goldsmith Center, operated by The Wellness Community of the Northern Jersey Shore, will open in Eatontown on April 1, 2007.

I’ve known about The Wellness Community (the national organization, anyway) for some time. I think I first read about it in comedian Gilda Radner’s cancer memoir, It’s Always Something. Gilda found a support system there, as she was coping with her ovarian cancer. The Wellness Community must have been a very significant place for her, because, at her death, her family asked that memorial contributions be made to the organization.

The local chapter’s newsletter speaks of “3,500 square feet of space ample enough for multiple support groups, light exercise, mind/body programs, educational workshops, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, social events and more.” These services will all be provided free of charge.

Visiting their website today, I find some material that applies to my particular situation, as a lymphoma patient in remission:

“Thanks to improvements in early diagnosis and treatment, some forms of lymphoma have become more of a chronic illness for some people. That means that perhaps you might have recurrent cycles of disease, treatment, then recovery. Relapse may occur in all types of lymphoma. A lot of people have shared that the fear of recurrence seems overwhelming, especially when treatment ends. The challenge is learning to live in the moment, balancing the fear of recurrence with the desire to enjoy health and wellness.”

“Relapse” is, indeed, the dreaded word for people like me. My next PET and CT scans are scheduled for a week from now. It’s not that I’m spending a lot of time actively thinking about those scans – but, the awareness is always there, in the background, a sort of low-level emotional noise. When I was initially diagnosed, I was not aware of any symptoms. The disease crept up silently, and ambushed me from behind. I suppose that, should I ever have a recurrence, it could very well happen again in just that way: with no warning.

I’m feeling pretty good these days, physically. I’ve been working out at a local health club, the Atlantic Club, and find that it’s helping my energy level and general sense of well-being. Every once in a while, I reach up to the spot on my upper chest, just below the right shoulder, and feel the little knot under the skin. It’s my implanted port, the only physical reminder I still have of my cancer treatment.

Yet, the disease is still with me, and will continue to be with me, even if the scans come out clean. It’s the nature of cancer, and the reason why facilities like The Wellness Community, and the Cancer Concern Center here in Point Pleasant Beach, are necessary.

“The challenge,” says the write-up on The Wellness Community website, “is learning to live in the moment.” Oh, yeah. That about sums it up. We cancer survivors all too easily live in the past, remembering our past struggles, or in the future, dreading that which could (but may not, in fact) be. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a little something to say about that:

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)

The novelist, Anne Lamott, has that same sort of thought on her mind, as she recalls:

“Some mornings I wake up and I instantly feel discouraged by the world and my government and by my own worried mind. It's like my brain has already been up for awhile, sitting on the bed waiting for me to wake up. It’s already had coffee, and has some serious concerns about how far behind we are already. So I always pray, first thing upon awakening, very simple prayers like the one [my son] Sam prayed years ago when his head got caught in the slats of a chair: ‘I need help with me,’ he whispered…. I know that most of the time, for me, the only real problem is, that left to my own devices, I am on my own mind almost all the time.” ("Every Sandwich,"

Let’s hear it for getting ourselves off our own minds! Today’s trouble is surely enough, without borrowing some from tomorrow.

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