Hi! I was thinking today of the word "serendipity." I'm a writer, a reader, and an English major; so yes, I do think about things like this (lucky Kelly, right?). Few words in the English language are as fun or as joyful to say as "serendipity." I often find myself wanting to use this word but refraining because I want to make sure the circumstances truly suit its semantic glory.
Anyway, I'm using the word today in this blog because I think I had a couple of serendipitous moments in the past week. The first occurred while I was browsing through my bookshelves looking for items to send to the Goodwill. I picked up a stack of books and noticed one, Andrew Weil's "Spontaneous Healing," that had been recommended to me by a friend when I first received my cancer diagnosis. The book bills itself as a guide on "how to discover and enhance your body's natural ability to maintain and heal itself." I had purchased the book last January on her recommendation and immediately read Ch. 19 titled "Cancer As A Special Case".
At the time I first read this chapter, I came away discouraged largely because of one sentence:
"Once cancer becomes established in the body, and particularly when it has spread from its initial site (metastasis), it is very difficult to cure."
This did not seem promising. Plus, I was already a bit skeptical of "healing" as a form of cancer treatment because it typically presumes that the person who needs healing is living an unhealthy lifestyle. This was not the case with me. Prior to my diagnosis, I ate a very healthy diet, had a very active lifestyle, and had very solid relationships with the people I love. Needless to say, I didn't read much more.
When I picked up the book last week, I turned it over in my hands and then--almost instinctively--turned to Ch. 19 again. I don't know why. Maybe to reconfirm my reasons for rejecting it originally. Whatever the cause, I suddenly found myself deeply engaged by the words on the page. They were the same as I had read before, but this time I found myself focusing on a different sentence:
"The future (of cancer treatment) will bring immunotherapy capable of rousing a slumbering immune system to action."
This exactly described the way melanoma treatments have developed since I had my malignant mole removed in 1995. After reading a little further, I flipped to the front of the book and located the copyright date: 1995. More than twelve years ago, this guy was writing about something that the best melanoma oncologists are embracing today!
This, I believe, was serendipity! I immediately decided I would accept whatever recommendations Weil had for boosting the immune system. And--lo and behold--his recommendations from 1995 largely conformed to the recommendations given by Dr. Legha, Dr. Richards, and almost every other oncologist I've visited in the past year: be active, and eat a diet of low fats, low sugars, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. He also recommended the use of guided imagery techniques and herbal supplements. A local cancer support group has free classes in the imagery techniques so I'm going to give some of those a try. I'll have to talk to Dr. Richards before taking supplements to ensure that they won't interfere with my current treatment.
It was obvious to me that the potential benefits of optimizing my "healing system" outweighed any negatives that might come from following Weil's recommendations, so I didn't need any other motivation to do it. But then I had my second serendipitous moment. Kelly, who rarely reads books (she prefers magazines), recommended that I read a book she had received from one of her clients. The book is called "Love, Medicine, and Miracles" by Bernie Siegel. I found the first few pages intriguing but nothing particularly special. And then something interesting happened. The author asked a question of the reader: "Do you want to live to be a hundred?" Even though I was reading quietly to myself, I immediately yelled "Yes!" to the empty room before continuing with my reading. Here's what the rest of the paragraph says (pardon the ellipses and parentheses; I'm trying to summarize):
"(I) have found that the capacity . . . (to fight cancer) . . . is accurately predicted by an immediate, visceral 'Yes!' with no ifs, ands, or buts. Most people will say 'Well, yes, as long as you can guarantee I'll be healthy.' However, the persons who . . . (fight cancer successfully) . . . know that life comes with no such warranty. They willingly accept all the risks and challenges. As long as they're alive, they feel in control of their destiny."
This paragraph, which incidentally was first published in 1985, gave me a tremendous boost of encouragement. Earlier that day, I had looked at myself in the mirror after taking a shower and thought 'This is not what a diseased body looks like.' Siegel's words seemed to confirm that thought. I am not a diseased body. I'm an individual who wants to crush this melanoma and get on with my life. That's how I felt last January; it's also how I feel now. And it's actually been rather easy to maintain this attitude thanks to all of you: our friends, relatives, and neighbors who have done so much to support me, Kelly, and the kids through this whole experience.
So that's it: serendipity. A couple of unexpected happenings that have put a little extra spring in my hobbled step. I hope you all enjoy a few serendipitous moments of your own in the coming days.
PS. We were organizing some photo albums the other day and came across some pictures that really took us by surprise. Everyone tells us Finn looks like Jack. But he seems to look a heck of a lot like Aubrey and Regan when they were the same age he is now. Can you tell which one is Finn? I'll give you the answer in my next blog post . . .