Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Suitcase

I consider myself a student of Life. I’ve read many of the spiritual writings of the day: Marianne Williamson on The Course in Miracles, The Secret, Echart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and Conversations With God, Books 1, 2, 3 and then some. I know about the Law of Attraction. I know that Thoughts are Things. I know what I should be doing: focus on the gifts of Now; choose love over fear, breathe, look for the beauty (and I would add humor) in each of life’s experiences, etc. You would think that I would know better than to jump to the “Oh my God, I’m relapsing”conclusion when every little physical discomfort pops up. Easier said than done.

My hospital suitcase, always packed and ready for a crisis, was a blue duffel bag on wheels that, over time, began to fall apart. The handle was busted and the fabric was wearing out on the bottom. I vowed that when I was well enough to return to work, I would throw it away, ridding my world of the sick leukemia energy buried within. When I returned to work, I was so busy, I forgot about the suitcase.
I was tidying up one night last week, preparing for my cleaning lady to come the next day (why do we do that anyway?). I open a closet and there it was – the suitcase. Ugh, that! I pulled it out and put it by the door to throw away the next morning.

I went to bed feeling uneasy. I had had a surgical biopsy the week before – just ruling out yet another possibility for yet another type of cancer. The procedure had gone fine, but I was bleeding more during the second week than I had during the first. "This doesn't make sense," I thought." I woke up around midnight feeling nauseous and awful. “Don’t panic,” I told myself. "Just because I have two of the four terrible signs of impending relapse (bleeding, GI trouble, bone pain and fever), there’s no reason assume the worst." So I laid in bed, trying not to think bad thoughts. Sure, that works. “I can’t go through that again. I’m leaving in a week to move Dad into assisted living in Arizona. I’m in the middle of too many projects at work. I just bought all this great summer fruit and a tons of berries, which I won't get to eat. Damn!” And so on. I decided to wait till morning and go straight to Dr. Forte's office. By this time, I was convinced I was relapsing. There was no other explanation.

I dosed for a couple of hours. Sadie tried to console me with her purring. I woke up at 6:00 feeling even worse; I showered, dressed and started toward the closet for a suitcase. And then I saw it: the evil hospital suitcase, propped against the front door, ready to be tossed. I froze. I must have stared at that blue suitcase for a full minute, my heart racing. It felt like a battle of wills. Eventually Sadie broke the spell, pleading to be fed. I took the suitcase outside and pitched it in the dumpster, a little too loudly. I had won.

I packed a different suitcase, drove to Englewood, had my blood drawn, and waited. As soon as the coast was clear, I stole my blood results from the stand outside my exam room and exhaled. My counts were better than last month. All was fine. Dr. Forte came in and said that, even under the microscope, no rogue cells were found. “Sometimes a cell or two will fall off the assembly line and the spleen hasn’t come around yet to pick them up. But you had none of those, not one. It’s probably just stress. You should take it easy.” Note to self: relax – I’ll put that on my To Do list for after Dad’s move to assisted living. I drove to my surgeon’s office, and asked about the bleeding. He said, “That happens sometimes. Everything looks fine.” (It would have been nice to have a heads up on that. By the way, the pathology report for that surgical biopsy was negative for cancer.) I drove back home, took a nap, unpacked the “benign” suitcase, and started to feel better.

What was the lesson in all this? Well, there were many. I was reminded of the value of faith, the ease with which fear overtakes logic, and power of symbols. The blue hospital suitcase was a test. Such tests merely measure what we have learned. I’m tempted to be hard on myself for momentarily forgetting all my spiritual readings. But that would defeat the purpose, now wouldn’t it? Life is a classroom. I just had a hard day at school.