Monday, May 21, 2012

Being Fully Alive

 It has been nearly 17 months since my stem cell transplant and I am in remission.  I am feeling well and regaining my energy and trying to rebuild my stamina.  Some of the time I am  more like myself and less like the person who has been “inhabiting my days” and feeling lost in her illness.  Recently, I had highlights put in my hair and, just like magic, I looked like who I was before chemotherapy destroyed my hair.  It seems like a trivial thing, but it felt comforting to look in the mirror and see me.

At our last Survivorship seminar, Finding Hope, Meaning and the New You, the facilitator started out by reading this poem:

Fully Alive
 By Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.  I will not live in
   fear of falling or catching fire.  I choose to
inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
   to make me less afraid, more accessible, to  
   loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
      a torch, a promise.  I choose to risk my
significance; to live so that which came to me as a
seed goes to the next as blossom and that which
      came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.

I am beginning to feel that I am at a point when I am ready to "inhabit my days" as the poem says.  If I am being honest, I know haven’t been doing it very well yet.  The days seem to slide by and I find it hard to get excited about much and I wonder what, if anything, I am accomplishing.  Then I begin thinking about the fact that my life is likely to be shorter than I thought and it troubles me that I am wasting precious time.  

In a recent blog post, Andrew Schorr of Patient Power made a powerful statement that has given me inspiration:

Yes, it can be tiring to tell people one after another that you are okay, that you are feeling hopeful about the future, and that you are determined to live every day to its fullest. But I know they are asking out of love. And, beyond that, it is a “teachable moment.” We patients, as we continue to live life, are proof that treatments can work and that our determination to live and live well matters. We can give other people hope just by showing up . . . 

Setting an example of hope for other cancer patients is something I feel responsible to do. Thank you to Andrew for helping me recognize this.  Knowing that Geraldine Ferraro's multiple myeloma story gave me hope is another compelling reason. (See February post)  I think this may be something I could get excited about and my hope is that as I feel better and my energy level rises, I will become “fully alive” and start making good use of the time I have to make a difference.

Link to Andrew Schorr’s blog on Patient Power:

Just for fun, I would like to share this picture of the Space Needle in Seattle.  It is 50 years old this year and to commemorate the anniversary, they have painted the top the original Galaxy Gold. When I was 16, I had the privilege of attending the opening day of the Century 21 Seattle World's Fair and what a memorable day it was.  I think the Space Needle is still a futuristic and magnificent sight all these years later. 


  1. Carole Leigh,

    I appreciate the poem and the reflections you included in your reflections!

    I understand completely your feelings of wondering where a day has gone and seemingly there is nothing to "show for it". It is a realization that comes with age but also coming face to face with our mortality. We want the days to count. When our perception of "them" does not meet our expectations, it can easily be despairing. At such times, I have to know I am doing the best I can. That is all any of us can do and then not fuss about "not doing".

    Your hopes to give back to other cancer patients is wonderful. It is a way to redeem the days and the tough experience you have been through. You are already a great encourager. Anyone would be blessed to have you show up in their life!

    Thanks for your reflective posting here. It helped me to read it.

    Lynn :)

  2. Lynn,
    Thank YOU for your reflective response and encouraging words. I know I have been blessed that you "showed up" in my life all those years ago.

    Carole Leigh

  3. Long ago, when having a discussion with my mother about life endings (She was diagnosed with breast cancer but was not about to die - we just got on the subject.) she said, "You think you have to DO something to be worthy. Perhaps just the fact that you are who YOU are is enough, and that by living and being and doing what you, even if it doesn't appear to change the world outwardly, is important. Not everyone is expected to write a book, paint something memorable, give birth, invent something... some of us are here to listen, to watch, to be in the right space of time for Other Things to happen. We are part of the puzzle, just not necessarily the key piece, but we are still important to the Whole." When I take time to read or reflect or simply walk about, I am reminded of this sage thought.

    1. Your mother was a wise woman. Thank you so much for sharing her wisdom. She was so right . . .
      Carole Leigh