Looking For A Path Up To The Second Mountain

Not everyone likes to share their latest health crisis, but then there are others who like nothing better.

I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe if you have a voice, you should call attention to things that need righting in the world.

On the other hand, being diagnosed with cancer is sadly common and I wonder what kind of difference I can make.

On March 4, a biopsy result confirmed the worst: I had a tumor in my left breast and soon after I had a mastectomy. I would, three weeks later, have another surgery to correct a problem with the first, and then battle an infection.

What I took away from all of this is the incredible resiliency of the human body. My body is healing itself without instruction or direction from me, and I marvel at the miracle of it all.

Breast cancer gets a lot of attention. Its organizations have a well-orchestrated marketing campaign and we now think of pink bows and 5K walks when we think of breast cancer. I benefitted from the experience of millions of women before me and from the generous contributions people have made to help find better treatments. But because I am more egalitarian when it comes to health, I’d prefer to hear that all types of cancer receive the same funding and attention.

The problem with breast cancer, my doctors tell me, is that it is incredibly sneaky. It often shows up somewhere else in your body, despite all efforts to keep it contained to the breast.

This often happens within five years of the first occurrence, but in truth, breast cancer cells observe no rules or decorum. Time means nothing to them. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 years for 30 years and died from it.

My best friend was also diagnosed three times, and when it finally reached her breast-less chest wall, it took her life at the age of 51.

No one with breast cancer is under the presumption that they can waltz out of their first surgery wearing a “I’m Cured” badge. There is no cure for breast cancer.

There will always be doubt and fear hovering over your life like a dark cloud.

I suppose that’s what’s called finding grace while living with the unknown.

Someone asked me the other day if I’ve become enlightened in any way. What have I realized about life?

I’m more inclined to be angry at the whole thing: why can we not cure cancer?

Why do so many people have it?

Why have we accepted it-the loss of our family and friends-even children–and not risen up to demand more?

More research, more studies, more environmental considerations as to its cause?

We think nothing of spending billions on war. I’m for a more peaceful earth that allocates it’s money to more pressing things like people’s health and happiness.

But I’m also blessed with good healthcare that treated this cancer with urgency rather than putting me on a waiting list like a friend from Canada.

I’ve been reading a book called “The Second Mountain,” about how many people find the first mountain they climbed in life to be unfulfilling.

That’s the mountain climbed with our egos, looking for success, for social status, for material wealth.

The author argues that some people find themselves falling off that mountain and into the valley-troubled, hurt, damaged or ill.

But that valley is often a blessing. Because some of those people go on to climb a second mountain-a new mountain where they strive to help their neighbors, find more meaning in their life, show up more for the people they love. Their life takes them in different directions: they move to Tibet and start an orphanage, they volunteer their time, or spend more of that time with family.

I’m not sure moving to Tibet is in the cards for me, but I am right now in the valley looking for a path up to my second mountain.

My family has always been my priority, but I also want to find a deeper, more intimate connection with the moments that are passing by.

And so I hope to share the journeys of local people who are sitting on top of their second mountains right now and have wisdom to pass along to the rest of us.

We are a world badly in need of connection with others. I hope this space can often be a place to do just that.