Epilogue to colon cancer diaries: Elva's birthday


Yesterday was my dear sister Elva's birthday. Birthdays are a big deal for me, an opportunity to celebrate ourselves and our life, and the life of each and everyone who makes who we are. Elva is a very special person, very well portrayed in a film that our niece Sofía made, which I recommend to everyone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnHaQRD1ljU. As a child, I learned so much from Elva, and again in this year that I have spent with her: I have come face to face recently with what I have been trying to study and learn all my life, to love, the only possible path of happiness. I have dared to tell her, and she is someone I adore, that sometimes, just sometimes, I cannot stand her. She's accepted it in by doing nothing else but shrugging, like if it was the most natural thing in the world. Well, isn't it the most natural thing in the world?

I asked her with great enthusiasm what I could do for her in her day, what it was that she wanted for her birthday, and she answered the following: "what I wish is the best news for you, although I know it is not in your power to grant me that wish". I am, we are, waiting for news of my last PET scan. It is a moment of truth, another crossroads in the long list that we have lived throughout this adventure that began a year ago yesterday, with my first surgery happening on Elva's birthday precisely. The first thing she did that day was to come to see me at the hospital, before they took me to the operating room. She looked so pretty, wearing a pair of earrings and a necklace that I had given her at some point. She would have stayed the night before if I had allowed her to do so. Even though I played the guitar and sang a song when she arrived, I did forgot to sing "happy birthday" to her.

I say this is a moment of truth, for me and for her, a moment of at least two truths, like the quantum physics Schrödinger's cat paradox, another "pet" in the story if I may. It was always hard for me to understand this paradox completely, understand that the possible alternatives of the cat being both dead and alive inside the box were two "real" and opposite scenarios at the same time if/when we did not know for sure. However, only one could be real, only one was going to be real, right? Until we find out, they both are, and that was the part I did not fully understand. Well, right now I understand it perfectly because bad news and good news about this PET scan are possibilities and are realities here and now, with very different tangible physical impacts on my body. My consciousness contemplates them understanding that they coexist in the real space of my mind. The funny thing is that this multiple reality gives everything a unique and brilliant perspective, as if the contrasts between one scenario and another were reaffirming each other, in the extraordinary amplitude of what I would call a moment of whole attention of mindfulness.

I have already seen and reviewed those two possible alternative stories (although there are more). The one with the good news, the relief, the celebration, the plans to return to Atlanta and continue with my projects... opposite to the other, the one suggested by the doctors, with additional tumors that would have to be removed, and the decision between a permanent ileostomy or going again through what I've been through this past year. It would not be the same story even if the same things happened. In another space and time, faced with the same events, I am someone very different.

I have learned, for example, that cancer is not my fault. I have learned that cancer is not my fault. I repeat this because I often say it but I'm not sure I fully believe it. However, I understand and believe more and more, that today, here and now, I am the result of an endless list of generational, biological, cultural, environmental, causes and conditions ... that began at the dawn of time and explain not only my cancer, but my thinking and my behavior at this very moment.

I have also learned and practiced that this being the case does not take away from me the opportunity to decide what to do with it and influence and possibly improve, update, these circumstances, or at least, bring light, learn. I can thus exercise the intention of creating with these facts, the "why" and "what for" that I prefer. I've already said it in the past that I don't believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that we can find a reason for everything that happens.

I have also learned and practiced differentiating between what I want and what I need. I do not need a life without an ileostomy or discomfort, but this is what I want with all my heart and soul. Despite the intensity of this desire, coming a little from vanity but also from the search for a happy ending to this whole story, I will not die if it not fulfilled: I can continue to exercise my space of freedom with what is or will be, which I do not control.

Above all, I have learned and practiced feeling that I am not just me. My mood affects those around me and even more so, those who love me, who I need and need me, so I wish the best news for my own sake and for the sake of all my friends. I have learned that I want and can advertise more parties (and fewer cancers). I also want to keep on learning, but not too much and not too fast, and certainly not at the cost of fighting titanic battles with cancer and the elements. I prefer happiness with ease. I prefer that we all have the best time possible.

Finally, I have learned that offering who you are and what you have is the most authentic and most sublime gift... the only one possible that is worthwhile. So, at this moment of truth that is not mine alone, I give you the following intention: may this moment help me meet you once again, you, who like to read what I write and come back for more. May it help me see and be seen, feel what you feel and be felt, both the good and the uncomfortable, which are also only one. And I can't think of any better gift for you, dear Elva, than this one right here right now, myself, my experiences which are yours and yours which we share. You are right in saying that I have no power now over what has been and therefore over how it may turn out ... but in whatever it is, in whatever may be, cancer or no cancer, I will exercise my power to take you to a party if you allow me to do that.

Photo: Sunset in Codolar, Ibiza (Spain) courtesy of my friend José Alberto Gómez Gabancho