Compliant and Defiant

These past several weeks have been my ‘lost time’ — dull days of floundering and fatigue brought on by a chemotherapy that levels me even as it eats away at my insides. I wander about, languid and dispirited, too weak to accomplish anything creative or fruitful. I try my best to go easy on myself, settling for simply being grateful that I can adapt to and cope with the poisonous concoctions that permeate my body and dull my soul. I’ve learned to rest when my body demands it and to give myself a compassionate free pass when I feel dim, doltish and  despondent. Ever true to my classical upbringing, I try to distinguish between accident and substance, reminding myself that even in what appears to be only vapid and vacuous, underneath it all, “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things,” as priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once put it. (“God’s Grandeur,” Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose, Penguin Classics, London, 1985, p. 27 ). 

Tonight, however, the fog has lifted. My spirits are refreshed. Renewal has come just in time. Tomorrow I meet with a new oncologist who, I hope, will coordinate my medical care and help me defeat this cancer that has spread too far too soon. I have a job to do: I need to let him know just who I am and where I hope to be headed. I’d like him to understand that I’m not some doddering old goat who’s about to come to the end of his tether. I hope he’ll see that sitting before him is a vibrant seventy-three year old man who fully expects to live a rich and rewarding life for decades to come. Of course I will want him to be straight with me and realistic, never hiding the true nature of my situation. But I would hope that he will be committed — unless and until we must see things otherwise — to a plan of care that ends with a cure.

I’ll tell him that I have so much and so many to live for that the prospect of an early death strikes me as a great inconvenience, (unless, of course, Providence has other plans, but that’s not the message I’m  picking up just now; there have been no deathly premonitions in my prayers.) I’m not desperate, but I am determined: dying is an adventure I look forward to, just not anytime soon. I feel called to live in a spirited way, not merely to survive, but to thrive, not to ruminate on what’s dismal but to savor all that’s delightful. For me, I want him to know, every day is a precious gift. Even my worst days are good — they’re more than good enough.

So, I’ll tell my prospective new oncologist, that I’m looking for a partner in healing. I pledge to be compliant even as I commit to being defiant. I’ll be compliant in the sense that my medical team can expect that I’ll do everything I can to cooperate with them so that I can get better. But I’ll also be defiant in battling this illness and I need the company of a skilled practitioner who shares my passion for a cure.

Seeing me will be the doctor’s first appointment of the morning. I hope I don’t scare him off; I pray that I’ll make his day.

8 Thoughts on “Compliant and Defiant

  1. Pamela A. Peters on November 13, 2018 at 6:53 am said:

    Dear friend-We are praying that your new oncologist vigorously commits to a partnership for a complete and restorative cure. Thanks for sharing this journey. You find perfect words for the deepest churning of the heart, mind and soul. Sending love.from “boffus”.

  2. Calvin Peters on November 13, 2018 at 8:17 am said:

    Edward, beautifully written! God Bless you in this new undertaking so go in peace

  3. Gretchen Hartmann on November 13, 2018 at 8:51 am said:

    Dear Edward, your writings are beautiful. You are beautiful. I haven’t read all of them but when I do I feel your pain. I just want to tell you that I am thinking of you and praying for you. You have touched me deeply.

    Love, Gretchen

  4. Judy Miller on November 13, 2018 at 9:43 am said:

    Praying that your new doctor will be your partner in your healing!!

  5. Elizabeth Elterich on November 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm said:

    You make our day every time we hear from you! I would guess the oncologist will be impressed at how well you know yourself and how much more there is to do/see/explore in your life. There are so many who love and care for you that need you to be here longer!! Make it a good morning. Thoughts, prayers, and blessings, elizabeth and richard

  6. Bob Buntrock on November 13, 2018 at 4:01 pm said:

    Ed, what a wonderful attitude. I just finished preparing for our Bible Study tomorrow morning on the lessons for Sunday. if you haven’t seen them yet, they’re on the last days, from Daniel to Mark, but inspire hope as well as the tribulation. You’ve had too much of the latter but have retained your hope. Keep up the good spirits.

  7. Dear Ed,

    You are 73 years YOUNG! And, certainly, VIBRANT.

    We Americans tend to be far too obsessed with NUMBERS as
    we live our lives. This is gently referred to as QUANTOPHILIA,
    and it certainly is a perversion from the ideal of simply describing
    stages of an organic developmental life span. This “micromanaging”
    of the years in counting “age” is an unwelcome symptom of an
    obsessive-compulsive approach to the unfolding of life’s developmental

    You, Ed, are the incarnation of the Archetype described by Carl Gustav Jung, M.D.
    (1875-1961) as THE WISE OLD MAN – You are a sage elder in the tribe and are valued
    by the younger generations coming after you. “OLD” here refers to the chestnut that
    “It takes time to make a good wine” (an advertising slogan from PETRI WINES, a proud
    sponsor of radio broadcasts of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). You are like a
    fine wine bursting with the effervescence of a maturity that has soaked in a lot of
    life’s experiences and lessons. You are OLD only in that optimistic sense.

    I wanted to pass this anecdote on to you:

    “What wouldn’t I give to be seventy again!” (FAMOUS QUOTATION)

    In 1937 a book titled “The Nine Old Men” about the U.S. Supreme Court was published by…two journalists, Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen. The authors presented a similar anecdote (to the one cited above), but the two justices walking together were Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. and Louis Brandeis:

    It was on one of these occasions that Holmes, then ninety-two, paused to gaze in frank admiration at a beautiful young girl who passed them. He even turned to look at her as she continued down the street. Then, turning to Brandeis, he sighed: “Ah! What wouldn’t I give to be seventy again!”

    Laughter is the Best Medicine!

    All my Holy Cross best wishes to you and your charming wife, Elizabeth,

    Jack McGovern, Class of 1967, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
    Duke University, Durham, NC

    P.S. I hope that you have justified faith in your new physician & the Medical Team.
    Belief and Hope are more than half the battle.

  8. Anne Stribling on November 14, 2018 at 8:13 am said:

    Love the title of this post! John and I are saying special prayers for you this week! Grateful for you and your precious life.

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