Mild Despond


I’d love to be there – at the place in the picture. It’s Pordenack Point. I thrive on walking the cliffs, feeling the wide-ocean sense of space you get at Land’s End in Cornwall, with Mexico over the horizon.

But I can’t. Most of the time I’m stuck in bed, though sometimes I clatter around the house with my walking frame.

Bone marrow cancer or myeloma has two elements. There’s the cancer of the blood and bone marrow, with a weakening, ultimately death-dealing effect if untreated, and there are skeletal issues typifying this kind of cancer, arising from weakening of the bones. In my case, two lower-back vertebrae (L1 and L5) have fractured and partially collapsed. This means I can’t stand without holding myself up.

And I get a lot of pain. It hurts, and hurting has become normal. I’ve got used to assessing pain levels. As I write I’m on 3-4 (out of 10) – manageable, but it’s wearing. It niggles, grates and aches. It goes up and down, and part of it is an issue of perception. It’s in my pelvis and lower back. When things are good, I’m down to 1. Nine is a killer – mercifully I get only moments of that, when heaving my creaky bones around.

My spirits are sagging – otherwise they have a way of holding me up. There’s a relationship between spirits and the law of gravity: when your thoughts are light and rising, gravity morphs toward levity, and when your mood is flagging and drooping, this bodily contraption we all wear gets bedraggledly heavier.

Well, I’m weighed down today. If I weren’t a compulsive optimist, I’d be depressed. Probably like Boris feels on a bad day, wondering how on earth to pull off the Brexit promises he’s made. Well, at least I’m not fat like him.

Overweight is normal in our country. I’ve been reflecting on ‘normal’, the yardstick in conventional healthcare and medicine. Last week I got some good blood test results. My para-protein count is down from 40 to 13 in the first of four cycles of medical treatment – the aim is zero. The registrar at hospital thought that was good. It was a nice surprise to me, but in another way it made sense.

It’s because I’m not ‘normal’. It isn’t that difficult being better than normal, because normal means unhealthy, rushed, out of balance – a normal state for many people. In the cancer ward I was in a few weeks ago, the guy in the bed opposite me – a nice chap – had a cup of coffee with three sugars in before bed, and that was situation normal for him.

For decades I’ve been a wholefood vegetarian and vegan, camping out, walking the hills, working with spiritual uplift and holding beliefs that, for many people, are way off their map. As part of my treatment now, I’m imbibing oils, vitamins, nutrients, homoeopathics and other helpers that most ordinary people would never touch or even know about.

I’m even connected radionically to an intelligent E-Lybra computer that’s vibing me with healing radiations from 25 miles away. In my meditation yesterday I let my ‘friends upstairs’ – spiritual guides, if you will – look into and through me. They see me from the inside out.

They examined my pelvis, ribs and blood, my energy-system and psyche, and I was glad to let them in. I let them see my guilt, shame and fears, for their interest, and offered up my life and efforts. To some this will simply be a sign of eccentricity or madness but, to me, it’s part of my spiritual toolkit and a source of relief, insight and sanity.

So when the doctors look at my better than normal results, an eyebrow rises but it goes no further. Perhaps it’s just an exception or good luck. Of course, according to the official line, there’s only scanty evidence that a holistic approach works and they assert repeatedly that there are horrendous risks and dangers to it.

Well, I’m doing it anyway, in the hope and belief that it will help. And faith matters. And the prayers, goodwill and reiki that you good friends out there have been sending me, for which I am genuinely grateful.

I don’t know what my life is going to be like in future. It’s grinding at me. Will I be able to stand on my own two feet? Will I be able to walk to Pordenack Point again? Will I be dependent and struggling or reborn? As yet unknown, these questions depend greatly on how these pharmaceuticals, these holistics and my life-force and spirits progress.

It involves a deep decision. An act of will. A resolve that infuses my bones. A re-irradiation of spirit. Today, that feels a remote possibility. But on other days, especially when I’m bubbling on steroids, it feels more doable. We shall see.

Life gets like this. My first Tibetan teacher in 1974, Akong Rinpoche, told me that when you’re lost and wading through treacle, that’s when the real work is happening, and when you’re inspired by clarity and vision, that’s like a holiday – good for you and nourishing, but not what really makes the difference. He was a Capricorn realist, yet the truth he served me is valuable now.

So, Happy New Decade, everyone. We deserve it. I conclude with a few observations.

  • When you think you’ve had enough and can’t handle any more, that’s when you’re being stretched into a new capacity to deal with what’s evolving here on Earth.
  • Second, there’s more, and it’s coming.
  • Third, it’s all going to be alright, even when it isn’t. This is a tricky truth to live with, and I’ve really learned this one by sharing time with people living in conflict zones.
  • Finally, to quote a sign at old rural railway crossings in Britain: STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN.

A new decade is a human, post-Christian construct but it makes us think longer term, and this we need to do more of. But remember: listen more closely to things than to people. Stop, look and listen.

And I’ll try to do that too.

With love, Palden

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