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" Friendship is a sheltering tree "

Coleridge

God is in the Detail

January 17th, 2009

I have a friend who has just received mistletoe injections to help treat cancer and she has written so clearly and movingly about this I asked if I could share this with you. She kindly agreed and here is what she said, first for our local online magazine ‘Viva Lewes’ and then from her own blog ‘100 Monkeys’:

A friend of mine who is recovering from cancer commented recently that the illness tends to bring on enlightenment. It’s a funny thing to say, but it does stand to reason. Facing the possibility of premature death tends to throw one’s whole life into perspective. ‘Am I ready to die?’ is a question that springs to mind. For a spiritual being, it should be a question we ask ourselves daily anyway. It’s like that conversation I used to have at dinner parties that started: if you had a year to live and had no money or health worries, what would you do? Laurence LeShan poses it in his workbook in Cancer as a Turning Point. He found that even terminally ill cancer patients, when encouraged to find their deep passion and zest for a vocation, often stifled, made remarkable recoveries from cancer, or at least had a more fulfilling end to their life. Personally, I’ve always just tended to do what I wanted to do in life anyway, so there’s not much I regret not doing. But I managed to come up with a short list and plan to add to it over time. MORE OF: laughing, happiness, intimacy, friendship, adventures, food growing, holistic beekeeping, dancing, travel to exotic places (well, that will have to be by freighter). START: reading about Einstein, learning to play the cello. LESS OF: chores. It seems like such a sparse, undemanding list, given the opportunity to have my dreams come true. But it is what it is.
If it is possible to be frog-marched down the road to enlightenment, I suspect it might go something like this. Gratitude: As I wrote last week, whatever time remains appears more intense. Little details seem like tailor-made miracles. Judgement and reactions: So what? Life really might be too short. Even those nasty people who are trashing my planet are, to me now, simply ignorant; let it all go. Bad habits: Stuff that; I want to live my remaining days to the full, not lost in a cloud. Forgiveness: It’s physically much easier to say sorry than to bear a grudge. Living in the moment: More than ever, so much of the busy-ness we call life and where we put our energies seems rather a waste of time. I can’t even work myself up into a lather about the credit crunch; faced with possible death, both the voice of the news and even the voices in my head seem tedious. What remains are the core values that we all live with; love, truth, hope, happiness, which, like the vegan-esque diet I’ve been on, contributes to a rather curious lightness of being. From Viva Lewes

I write from my bed, feverish with the mistletoe injected to help repel the cancer. Mistletoe is the most frequently prescribed therapy in German outpatient cancer clinics; it’s said to strengthen the immune system while minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our ancestors laced ale with it during winter orgies – hence the provenance of kissing under the mistletoe. My fever started at Park Attwood, the anthroposophical clinic in Worcestershire, where I retreated for a week and was fed fantastic food and given foot compresses, massages and hot water bottles. I’ll continue with the injections weekly or so for the next couple of years while I recover. Mistletoe is said to support the ‘etheric body’ – or life force during chemotherapy, which starts next week.

In between fevers I spent last weekend here in Lewes with my family and felt as happy as I’ve ever felt in my life. God – and not the devil – is in the details. The slam of the door as the children return home. The toot and parp of Dirk tuning his instruments. The crackle and glow of the fire. The sun moving across the sky and casting its light on the buildings around us. People dropping by, chatting outside in the street, organic carrots fresh out of a nearby field making a rainbow winter salad. It’s been said a million times, that facing death makes us truly value what we have. But why stop at cancer? Life itself is terminal. Why not fall into love with ourselves and melt in to that fierce heat of living, right now and at every moment? From Adrienne’s 100 Monkeys Blog