“OK, let me pull up the results… just let me check…”
Early March, 2013. Amrita and I wait, eyes on each other, fully present, waiting as the doctor fumbles with her computer.
“I’m sorry, the results aren’t here, would you excuse me for a minute?”
She leaves, and we completely crack up. We know what’s happening. We’re here to find out the results of a biopsy of my wife’s breast tissue. We’re here to find out if she has cancer, and we really don’t know if it’s going to be good news or bad. But still, we’re with each other, and in that space, in the tension of the moment, in our impatience with the clumsy medical system and the doctor who can’t seem to look us in the eye, all we can do is laugh.
I offer one hopeful opinion in the space that follows. Surely, I think, all this confusion reflects a hopeful result. A clear positive is a clear positive, the doctor could have told us that.
But she comes back, and the news is not good. Lots of long words and obfuscation to cover the simple truth – my wife has breast cancer. Time to start planning treatment. Here’s an oncologist to go see. Here’s a surgeon, “best breast man on Maui”. (Laughter lurks again.)
As we walk out to the car, I turn to Amrita. “I’m going to get a job.”
In August 2012, I was laid off from my computer programming job of 15 years, with a generous severance. I saw it as an opportunity. I would have preferred to work a while longer, build up some savings, but I also had a longing to launch into a new career in healing, transformation, and workshop facilitation. I already had solid facilitation skills, and I’d been training in the crucial marketing work that’s necessary to bring the people I can help into those workshops. I felt ready.
By the time of Amrita’s cancer diagnosis, I was 6 months in to the new business, and doing badly. I was OK with that, I’d heard that that’s what happens when you start a small business. Some of my workshops had gone forward, a couple were mildly profitable, I lost money on a couple, and my latest one had been canceled. We still had some money in the bank; Amrita was in the same business, and we were still fully on board for living that dream as fully as we could.
But then we got the news. And in an instant, our priorities shifted. Amrita needed to heal, not to work; and I needed to come back to the householder role, of being the support.
And the miracle of this, the utter blessing, was how ready we both were to embrace this change. To “change the channel”. She embarked on a path of self-healing, and I embarked on a new engineering career – letting go of the old paths, letting go of my ideas about being a workshop facilitator and healer, just as easily as I had let go of my old engineering job six months before. Such a delight in that – to discover that we can both respond enthusiastically to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, orient ourselves in alignment with our highest options, and dive in to the next phase.
It took me four months to find a job, and in those four months, Amrita totally freed herself from cancer, with one big surgery and a wide range of complementary therapies. (See more about that on Amrita’s blog, at Dancing with Cancer.) I make less than I used to, but enough to get by, and I’ve completely reinvigorated my relationship with engineering. I’m excited to be an engineer, a creator, one who helps to build the world of tomorrow. But what I’m most grateful about in all of this is to discover that I’m not stuck; that my identity isn’t fixed on being “this” or “that”, and that I’m able to change the channel when it’s needed.
What else is possible? Absolutely anything.