I think the second Buddhist meditation I was taught was one on finding my “I”. In essence one tries to identify just where one’s”I” is: is it in your body, if so whereabouts? If you lose your finger, a hand, an arm etc is the “I” still within your body, has it gone with the limb or has it ceased to be? This meditation came back to me very powerfully the day my hair came out in the shower and I subsequently found myself looking into the mirror at a head the shape of which I simply did not recognise! Suddenly me head had ceased to be mine! The face was sort of familiar, but the head shape very definitely wasn’t. Since then the same has happened with my body as the chemotherapy takes its toll of my body hair, fat and muscle. Similarly my brain and thought processes are often as ephemeral as gossamer. There are times the only thing which seems to continue to be me is my own sense of identity and yet even that seems to be up for grabs on many a day when the chemo claims payment for saving my life by draining all the energy from me or takes away all power for sustained (i.e. longer than one minute) thought. I may look as if I’m listening. I may sound as though I am listening. I may even have been listening to start with, but, that doesn’t mean I have the faintest idea of what is happening right now.
So, who am I? That sounds like a really important question, but I think a more important one is, ‘Who am I about to become?’ It occurs to me that the cancer/chemotherapy process can, and possibly usually is, seen as a destructive process, but, perhaps, one should think of it instead as a time of metamorphosis, a time when the old me will turn into the new me, rather like a caterpillar entering its cocoon and leaving it as a butterfly. The question is, what will this new-look me actually look like? That sounds such a simple question doesn’t it? The answer is a bit scary as I really don’t know. Oh, I know that I want to be compassionate, loving, honest, a good husband, father and friend, but then I wanted to be all of those things before I discovered I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During the chemo treatment I’ve discovered my emotions have come to the fore on many occasions when I’m sure they previously wouldn’t. It’s not unusual for me to have tears in my eyes and on my cheeks several times a week. When I read the blogs of other cancer sufferers it’s not at all unusual for me to have tears streaming down my face as I realise how very fortunate I have been and just what strength many of you out there demonstrate as you get on with your life and plan for a future. To start with I found it difficult to deal with crying in this way. It’s not something I’ve done. I’m reasonably sure that I would like to keep the ability to empathise and to have my compassion touched so easily, but I’m not sure I want to have tears springing from my eyes unexpectedly in this way.
Any thoughts on the kind of butterfly I should try to be when I leave my cancer cocoon?