Saturday, August 25, 2007

day +4

Today was murderously hot in NYC as elsewhere in the Northeast, but I wouldn't have known that had I not watched CNN this morning. From my window atop the eighth floor of Sloan-Kettering, this corner of the Upper East Side of Manhattan looked as it did yesterday and the day before that. Cars moved below and people bustled along below silently, but the scenery looked the same except for a distinct haze in the distant morning sky that passed as the day progressed. I snapped about a dozen shots of the view from my room's window. New York-Presybterian Hospital, Rockefeller University, and the 59th Street Bridge are in view. Here are a few of them.




I met Dr. Juliet Barker, whom Dr. Castro-Malaspina had told me would fill in for him during his vacation, this morning. She is the attending physician for this weekend. Everything looks good. My bowels are still loose, but I'm passing gas without fearing that it will turn out to be loose stool. Still no mouth sores. My feet feel fine now as well. My WBC dropped to 0.3 today as well as the other important blood cell counts: HGB 11.5 and platelets 30. The TPN, which was supposed to have started last night but didn't because of a mistake with the order, started this evening.

This afternoon I spent about 20 minutes using the pedal exerciser while listening to WFAN. Adrienne of Adrienne's Updates and her mother, Alison, stopped by and we had a good time. It was wonderful to meet Alison finally after having communicated with her via phone and e-mail only. I also returned to Comfortable with Uncertainty, a wonderful little book which I started to read months ago but stopped I think around the time when I returned to Chicago for school. I came across, as one always does with Pema Chodron, sensitive revealing messages of empowerment and self-discovery that stir on intense self-reflection. Let me share just a few of the passages that I read today.

*We cannot be in the present moment and run our story lines at the same time. Experiment with this for yourself, and watch how it changes you. Impermanence becomes vivid in the present moment; so do compassion and wonder and courage. And so does fear. In fact, anyone who stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present, without reference point, experiences groundlessness. That's when our understanding goes deeper, when we find that the present moment is a pretty vulnerable place and that this can be completely unnerving and completely tender at the same time.

*When we get what we don't want, when we don't get what we do want, when we become ill, when we're getting old, when we're dying - when we see any of these things in our lives - we can recognize suffering as suffering. Then we can be curious, notice, and be mindful of our reactions. Our suffering is so grounded in our fear of impermanence. Our pain is so rooted in our lopsided view of reality. Who ever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain? It's promoted rather widely in this world, and we buy it. But pain and pleasure go together; they are inseparable. They can be celebrated. They are ordinary. Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.

*People generally eat up the teachings, but when it comes to doing tonglen, they say, "Oh, it sounded good, but I didn't realize you actually meant it." In its essence, this practice is: when anything is painful or undesirable, breathe it in. In other words, you don't resist it. You surrender to yourself, you acknowledge who you are, you honor yourself. As unwanted feelings and emotions arise, you actually breathe them in and connect with what all humans feel. We all know what it is to feel pain in its many guises.

You breathe in for yourself, in the sense that pain is a personal and real experience, but simultaneously there's no doubt that you're developing your kinship with all beings. If you can know it in yourself, you can know it in everyone. If you're in a jealous rage and you have the courage to breathe it in rather than blame it on someone else, the arrow you feel in your heart will tell you that there are people all over the world, who are feeling exactly what you're feeling. This practice cuts through culture, economic status, intelligence, race, religion. People everywhere feel pain - jealousy, anger, being left out, feeling lonely. Everybody feels it in the painful way you feel it. The story lines vary, but the underlying feeling is the same for us all.

This afternoon I e-mailed Columbia University's Religion Program expressing my interest in applying to its MA program for enrollment in Fall 2008. For several months now, I've been contemplating a Master's in Religion and/or Journalism but at the moment, I think Religion may be more what I'm looking for. I have a lot of questions about the philosophy of religion in general that I'd like to explore more deeply and I think that studying in an academic program would give me the opportunity to answer some of these questions. I'm interested also in the historic relationship between religion and science. NYU is the other school that I'm interested in applying to, but applications for both it and Columbia for enrollment in Fall 2008 are due in January.

Another MA program seems far off with all that's going on at the moment and with the difficult road immediately ahead, but I must keep looking forward. Despite the transplant, I must have a goal, something in which I can have hope and look forward to doing when these dark days have passed. To paraphrase Sean Swarner, when hope is lost all is lost. I can't just idle in the mire of cancer and the transplant. I need to look beyond, which is why I continue to look forward to the moment when I make it to Glacier National Park. Boy, won't that be a spectacular day. I was so excited to read the present issue in National Geographic about it. I think about Glacier very often. I've thought recently that Glacier would make a great trip after my first year at Columbia or NYU or after graduation. We all need something that inspires and excites us. I know I do.

9 Comments:

Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why you are my HERO. I also could use some inspiration in my life right now, but as you lay in a hospital and undergo a transplant you continue to encourage me and others.

Thank You,
Love Muriel

3:33 AM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Hi Muriel,

Thanks Muriel, but I'm no hero. I'm just doing what needs to be done, what I think anyone in my shoes would do. To be honest, I have surprised even myself but I don't think it's extraordinary. Others can and have done the same.

Thanks for commenting as always.

Love always,
Duane

9:23 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is great idea to get a MA here in NYC. b ut even a better idea is the trip to Glacier--something to keep in the forefront of your goals and plan for!

see you in a week!!

xx
EFG

9:44 AM  
Comment Blogger Veronica said...

So glad that you got to meet Alison and Adrienne........they're becoming quite the celebrity couple!! Last week they were at Tianna's wedding (from the forum) and this week visiting you in hospital! Makes Scotland seem even further away, though!

Good luck with your Glacier goal......sounds fantastic! Wullie's goal is to get to Boston next year to meet some fellow Hodgers.........as you say, everyone needs something to aim for!

Thanks for the daily updates.......you're doing brilliantly............xx

3:29 PM  
Comment Anonymous Emily said...

You will get to that glacier! Something that I do find impressive is that you are in no way letting your battle with cancer stop you from looking to the next adventure. The point of the battle is to keep living - enjoying your life and the people you love and reaching your goals and places to see. Rock on!

Off topic, as usual, I've been posting links to your entries on my journal. A friend made this comment to one of those posts, "Thanks so much for these posts. My dad's doing chemo for Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins and its just nice to read the experiences of other folks." Thought you'd like to see.

7:59 PM  
Comment Blogger Jennifer said...

Simply amazing. I'm so glad that things are going as well as they can be for you Duane. I can't even imagine typing all of that during my first sct!!! Craziness. You give so many hope and inspiration. Keep Smiling, Fighting, & Laughing!

God Bless!
Jen
www.freewebs.com/jenniferwilley

8:47 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for telling me about Tianna's wedding. I had no clue. I must congratulate her. Thanks!

Duane

9:42 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks for sharing that comment with me, Emily.

Duane

9:42 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

You rock, Jennifer! You most certainly rock!

Thanks for well-wishes and encouragement.

Duane

9:43 PM  

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