Even when people are found guilty of a heinous crime and subsequently and irreversibly  sentenced to death, they tend to hold out hope that something—the State, the Universe, God, anything—will intervene to save them. People diagnosed with an incurable, terminal disease may cling to the same futile wish for salvation. Facing the certainty of one’s own impending demise is very nearly impossible to comprehend; even highly intelligent, extremely rational people often find inconceivable the possibility that their lives may really end. Belief in an afterlife is one way of coping with the inevitable. In the absence of such belief, though, they may “accept” their own death. But they might envision “seeing” themselves dead…as if consciousness extends after their life ends. Why, I wonder, do we find it so difficult to comprehend the incomprehensible?


Yesterday’s PET scan took significantly less time than usual (the technicians told me they were uncharacteristically ahead of schedule), but the time I spent being examined by the machine seemed longer than normal. While I waited for the injected radioactive dye to circulate through my body, I heard a technician comfort and reassure another patient whose procedure was to follow mine. The patient’s husband had been undergoing cancer treatment and, now, she was getting a PET scan to help determine whether she, too, has some form of cancer. A wave of compassion washed over me as I listened to her frail voice admit to being afraid. Hearing the technician attempt to calm her nerves, I felt admiration for him. He must frequently need to help patients get through a very stressful experience; though he might have been trained to handle such situations, he sounded to me absolutely genuine as he tried to comfort her. I think even heartless, highly-trained liars cannot fake compassion. This guy’s tone of voice and his choice of words sounded to me absolutely authentic.


When I learned I had a recurrence of cancer, I was surprised. I felt sure, five years after my diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I had beat the beast. I knew, though, from shortly after my oncologist told me of the recurrence, it was serious. I asked her, directly, whether the treatments she would use to combat the cancer were expected to cure me or whether they would be intended to extent my life. She said her intent was to extend my life. That honest response jolted me a bit, but I am glad she did not try to sugar coat her answer. Research I had done revealed that the five-year survival rate after a diagnosis like mine was not as high as I would like. Ten-year rates and beyond were even less uplifting. But I had already slightly beaten the odds at five years, so I was ahead of the game. The last PET scan before yesterday revealed the cancer was responding as hoped to the chemo treatments. I will find out tomorrow whether that trend has continued. If so, great. If not, I’ll ask whether additional therapies are in order. No matter how much I would like to be lackadaisical about it, I can’t seem to muster as much stoicism as I would like. But I am reconciled with the fact that I have limited control over the progress of the disease. I hope, of course, to get good news. As in all things miniscule and mighty, time will tell.


Greed and growth are not necessarily synonymous, but they often exist in the mindsets of the same people. They share the attitude that “more” is sacred. Power and profit are sacrosanct elements of their philosophies. I want to train to immerse myself in the beauty of minimalism; the serenity of “less.” But that serenity is difficult to achieve, after a lifetime of social pressure. Competition to accumulate, to win, to spread, to increase, to thrive as measured by aggrandizement. “I want” can be an ugly word pairing. Yet I used it in this snippet of thought as an objective. We confuse ourselves by saying we want to eliminate poverty while hoarding food that could feed the starving and by building McMansions rather than providing shelter to people who need a place to sleep.


Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

~ Edward Abbey ~


I do not know the object of my anger, only that rage threatens to consume my animosity as if anger were an ice cube.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Seething

  1. Thank you, Patty. Love you, too.

  2. Patty Dacus says:

    A big hug and fervent hope for good news tomorrow. Love you.

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