Why use a canoe trip as an analogy for a cancer journey?

Well I am specifically thinking of a canoe trip on a river as opposed to a lake or the sea. The nature of a river lends itself well to the nature of a cancer journey.

It can be long or it can be short.

There are parts which will be fast flowing currents and other parts moving more slowly. On medical treatment there are easy days which go quickly and other days when one needs to be patient. On a chemotherapy cycle there are times when it feels like one is going over a waterfall or down a series of rapids eventually to find a quiet spot to rest up.

Whats around the next bend in the river? Another waterfall? An island to rest up on?

Anyway it has been a fairly long journey to this point but still a long way to go. Still a lot to learn

Is this canoe trip a battle?

Should a journey with cancer be considered as a fight or a battle? Is that a useful approach to take? I remember thinking about that when this trip commenced and have reflected on it often since. 
People would tell me ‘keep fighting it’, or ‘keep up the good fight’ or you can ‘beat it’. I take a lot of encouragement from and really appreciate the concern of my family, friends, colleagues, the medical teams (doctors, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists and all the other disciplines I have encountered) and acquaintances. ¬†Everybody has been so good to me.
But I have never really seen my canoe trip as a fight. I have fighters by my side to be sure who are doing battle on my behalf and I’m truly grateful to them. But my role is different. I often consider cancer to be an unwelcome guest, one I would really like to get rid of but a guest none the less. My job is to get this guest to leave or keep him occupied or engaged to allow the fighters to eject him or find other ways to control him and render him harmless.¬†

Lessons from tai chi would suggest that the best way to defeat an opponent is not with aggression. It is much better to use an opponents own energy against himself. I am still trying to figure out how to do this. Still ‘feeling’ the way so to speak.

I have recently started considering the cancer of part of myself. It is made of my cells and my genes. My Oncologist has referred to it recently as my cancer (although I’m sure she doesn’t mean me to take that literally). But if I can accept it as such then surely that would help in devising a strategy to get rid of it or to learn to live with it. Now there is further food for thought ….

What lessons are to be learned on a canoe trip

Being very interested in tai chi I asked my tai chi master/teacher about my canoe trip. He asked me what am I going to learn. That would help explain WHY I’m on this journey in the first place. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. I thought long and hard and didn’t find any answer at the time.
I have been on this trip for about 16 or 17 months now and on reflection am beginning to realise that indeed I have learned a few things along the way. They are probably lessons that I should have learned over the course of life anyway. Sometimes lessons need to be learned the hard way.
Among the lessons I have learned are that,
  • Slowing down is good – Stop, Look and Listen – Life is not for rushing through.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to just say no.
  • People are surprising and are not always (if ever) what you think they are.
  • I have an Inner Strength I didn’t realise was there (we all do I think).
  • Take it day by day.
  • Stillness is essential.