Recently, I publicized the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to support the publication of my book, Riding Shotgun. A dear friend suggested it would be a good idea to share an excerpt from the book. He's a pretty bright guy so I'm gonna do it. In fact here are two. Something else to point out...this entire undertaking would have never happened without facingcancer.ca and in particular some people who became friends, supporters, confidants, and advisors including Sherry Abbott, Mara Bonadie, Chantal Richard and Dr. Alex Ginty. To them I will be eternally grateful.
This book will help men find their way through the bewildering world of breast cancer and its dramatic impact on their wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, cousins, aunts, or anyone for whom they care and how they can come out the other side to find beauty in the wreckage.
The following entry to Chapter One - Facing Adversity - was written earlier this year. In fact, 130,032,000 seconds after Kate was diagnosed.
Does time diminish memory?
Does time diminish memory?
“Four years, one month and 13 days.
No matter how you count, it is at once immediate and distant.”
I began writing this piece on the four-year anniversary of Katie’s diagnosis. I am delighted to report that it is now 14,400 minutes into her cancer-free status. Much water has rushed over the dam since we started attempting to navigate the rapids of cancer. There has been anger of the most powerful dimension. There has been unbridled joy and brilliant sparkling hope. There has been pain coupled with fear. There has been jaw-dropping kindness.
If you were to run the gamut of human emotion, paddling down the cancer river would discover it for you. I don’t recommend it, but there is much learning to be gained when one has tremendous adversity enter one’s life. Even more learning occurs when you embrace the adversity as though it were a friend.
Yes, that sounds purely nuts.
Yet, as Katie pursued her life reinvention, she came upon brilliant and challenging opportunities to completely recalibrate how she attacked life. I use ‘attack’ with purpose as that is how she entered into the day-to-day fray.
Here’s Kate in her own words:
“For a good portion of my career I allowed stress to dictate my actions. I experienced burnout at least three times. Most of the time I either wasn’t aware of how stress was impacting me or I chose to ignore it because I was ‘too busy’ to pay attention. When work or life was overwhelming, I’d make external changes in an attempt to find balance such as taking sabbaticals and even moving to a new country. Eventually, I defaulted to old behaviours and continued to allow stress to dictate. I couldn’t bounce back because my mental resiliency was totally depleted.
“It was a thirdwakeup call that got my attention. I was diagnosed with cancer. This set me on a path to empower myself and others with tools to reframe stress. In the process I made some interesting discoveries. Firstly, how much of the time I would race through my day and lose myself in autopilot mode (research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the time). Autopilot mode is similar to driving your car, arriving at your destination then discovering you don’t remember a thing about the journey. Or opening a bag of nuts, suddenly noticing the packet is empty and observing you’ve eaten a whole bag without even realizing. I became aware of how much of the time my mind was ‘wandering’ and how frequently I was getting lost in ‘doing’ and ‘striving’ to get more stuff done instead of living fully.”
Back to the present moment then and back to the question - does time diminish memory?
In some respects - yes. In others - absolutely not. In most - only if you allow it to.
Here lies the rub.
Some of us feel, that to move forward, it is necessary to block out the adversity faced while we’re paddling upstream. We believe that filling up the shelves of our mental pantry and sealing the memories in air-tight packets is the way to live.
Quite simply this does not work.
It is a recipe for failure and a path to a life filled with absence. The absence of genuine feeling, of complete memory, of coping skills, and absence of presence.
Do not let time diminish memory. It is within your control. When you recall the depths of despair, you are more readily able to experience the relief of living. When you recall loneliness and isolation, you are more able to retrieve thoughts of those who surrounded you with love and support.
This suggests that you find a way to forgive yourself for “failing to fight the good fight.” Frankly, I dislike the notion of engaging in a brave battle with cancer. We live with it - while it lives within us and while it is apparently absent from our being. Children have the greatest resiliency of all. We would do well to recapture this childlike ability, being curious about it, being open to it and accepting how we manage its presence.
“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
Lewis B. Smedes
©2016 Don Kerr. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
Once again, the link to my Kickstarter campaign is:
after the diagnosis, a mastectomy, chemo, lymph node surgery, radiation - my wife Kate is remarkable - my sons Gabriel, now 8 and Samuel, 6 are remarkable - many of the people we’ve met on this trek are remarkable - this blog is for them