Re: The Darker Side
September 30, 2001, Memorial Hospital
Your words are beautiful and inspirational. I can't help but
ask, as I am a far more ambivalent and perhaps pessimistic
soul than you, is there a darker side to your experience you
don't let us see? --Frank F.
question is a good one. In part, it cuts to the point of
journal. As I said in deciding to go public
with my cancer (June 17), I write these entries "in hopes
that my story might give comfort and inspiration to others." So
by the terms of my mission, I'm not going to dwell on the negative.
I don't want to subject the reader to rants that, while they
may be cathartic to me, don't resonate in the larger world.
I want to send out positive energy.
Your question is vague enough that there are several ways
I can answer:
If you're asking, am I deliberately hiding aspects of my
the answer is no. Obviously, I don't write
about everything. There have been plenty of "dark" moments
during treatment when I've felt up against the wall, but I
never felt compelled to write about those. It takes so much
focus and energy to deal with treatment that whatever I write
has to come out of me almost as if by birth. Otherwise the
writing takes too much effort. I don't post according to any
schedule. If I post, it's because I feel like it.
--- If you're asking, have I experienced a crisis of faith
because of cancer?, the answer is no. On the contrary, dealing
with a life-threatening illness has deepened the teachings
of zen for me. My faith is stronger from cancer, not weaker.
If you're asking, do I sometimes have ambivalent feelings
wanting to go on?, the answer again is no. As I've said
many times, I'm extremely lucky. I have a loving wife, three
great kids, and a supportive family--they give me tremendous
motivation to grind through the tough times. Without a person
or a cause to live for, I might be more inclined to think, "What's
the point?" Then again, sometimes a crisis like this can
make people realize what's really important in life and crystalize
in their minds a reason to go on.
--- If you're asking, am I sometimes pessimistic about my
chances?, that's something I wrestle with on occasion, but
by and large, I avoid thinking about my odds of survival. I
don't want to know the percentages; they don't matter to me.
Whether the doctors say I have a 5 percent or 50 percent chance
of survival, I have to be in the group that survives. That's
the way I have to think.
I hope I've answered your question. I do believe there is
a darker side to this experience, for in yin-yang thinking,
there cannot be a brighter side without a darker side. As in
all things yin and yang, we find our way through balancing
the two. For me, the balancing leans toward the light. That's
why I've gone public with my cancer--to be out in the open.
There is plenty of time for darkness later.