A few years ago, I began another course of chemotherapy. It began in mid-August. It wasn’t until the following mid-May that I could get up in the morning and stay conscious all day.
It left me very weak. I could be active for a day, but then have to rest the next two or three days before I could be active again.
After a few months of this semi-disabled state, I decided, as I have before in my life, to take my own healing into my own hands.
And so I did.
I tried this. And I tried that.
After a year of going it on my own, I was feeling much better, and spent as much time as I wanted doing the things I wanted to do.
But then something strange happened.
After over thirty years of being limited in my ability to exercise, I was out walking one day—usually a fifteen minute to an half-hour effort—and when I was about to turn up the hill and head for home at the usual place, I just kept walking straight ahead. And my body began to sing inside of me. I started to sing outside of me at the wonder of having a body that could go beyond the limits that had been set on it for so long.
Over the next few months, my body responded to the changes I was making in my life.
I did this. My body followed along.
Until the following stopped.
I kept having the feeling that my body was fighting back against the changes. The weight loss. Even, perhaps, the detoxification of my body.
I was, after all, full of toxins. Which had made my body miserable.
But here I was, getting healthier and healthier, and my body was wanting none of it any longer.
Sure, it was fine for a while.
But no more.
Having been essentially bed-ridden for so many months I was heart-broken at the thought of not being outside for long walks everyday. I was just beginning to feel hunger again, and to sleep through the night.
I was back at a state of being mostly immobile. I just wanted to rest. To avoid feeling the wash of pain and upset that overwhelmed me.
I thought I was slightly insane to think that a body would actually fight the healing process. Actually have a mind of its own on the matter.
So I looked it up.
And there it was: all the ways the body can fight weight-loss in articles written by doctors.
Sabotaging the program adopted for success.
Hunkering down and becoming stubborn.
Redesigning the way the body was newly working so that it returned to its old state.
I was gobsmacked.
Our bodies, it seems, are not just follow-alongs that we can dictate direction to.
Not only that, but they have the ability to be creative in ways to controlling us, and keeping us from controlling them.
So I kept reasoning: if the body can fight back (and win) against weight loss, can an illness fight back from being cured?
I decided to assume that the answer was, Yes.
Having been so ill for so long (my first disabling disease arrived in my body when I was in my twenties) I was determined to win this battle. Or, perhaps even, these battles. The one with weight loss and the other with an illness.
But, see, that was the problem. I saw this as battle.
Me vs. my body.
It wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. It wasn’t following my commands.
It wasn’t eating its spinach at the dinner table.
And I think that, in general, this is how healing is viewed. Do what I command you to do, or else!
The more I pushed, the more I was pushed back onto the couch or into the bathroom.
So I stopped pushing.
I didn’t want to return to a seemingly permanent sedentary state. Put I didn’t want to get worse by overexerting myself.
Or by exerting myself at all.
So I listened.
I listened to my body.
And in listening I realized something most wonderful: we don’t ask our bodies what they want.
I don’t think that we even believe that our bodies have wants that are separate from our conscious wants.
I have been studying illness for a long time now. And I have come to see that the illnesses that I studied had their own voice. Their own life, so to speak.
Remembering this, I listened to the illness that was presenting itself to me.
I came to understand that, in addition to everything else that we do for our bodies, we have to be gentle with what is wrong with them.
Not tough and demanding. Not indifferent and willing to mask it all with medication.
But actually caring.
For the disease.
And be willing to listen.
So I did.
There was a sense of loss expressed.
It’s difficult to describe, but the organ that directed the disease in my body was not being responded to by me in an appropriate manner.
Who ever thinks to consult the disease itself for direction on healing?
So I did.
I began to follow the prompts by body started to give me.
And slowly, adjusting this and that in my program, I was on my feet again.
I was eating again.
And, best of all, I was walking again.
Not at first.
And, then, not for very long.
But now I am back to being able to walk an hour.
Still a miracle to me.
So the moral of the story is this: When your body fights you, realize you have been the one fighting, and stop.
And then listen gently to what your body has to say.
And try to conform to its wishes.
I suppose, in a way, a body is like a child.
We really don’t want to hear his complaints about what we do wrong as a parent.
But it’s a good idea if we do.