My email connection with Susan started shortly after I read an essay called Simplicity and Silence that she wrote for CBC’s This I Believe project. I identified with her journey of finding meaning and peace amid the chaos and uncertainty of ongoing cancer treatments. Susan is an associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, so she was easy enough to track down and we started emailing back and forth about our experiences.
Susan was diagnosed in 2003 with sarcoma, a fairly rare cancer of the soft tissue and the bone, in her right leg. Despite a return of the cancer in the same place two years later, and the spread to the lungs and dangerously near the heart, she is doing well and back at work in the Philosophy department at Queens.
My tool for living with this situation is meditation. I took a ten-day Vipassana course in March 2004 before my first chemo because I needed a tool to deal with the anger and resentment I had about being sick. I've practised meditation ever since. I've done five more ten-day courses to learn to focus my mind. My mind is all I have to respond to this ongoing situation. I am happy to see the beginning of 2009, something I did not expect one year ago. I do not think about 2010. I don't look forward or back and I live my life simply,
Peace and freedom are pursued through silence, at least in important part. Or so I now believe. I don’t mean just exterior silence, often experienced in agitation. I mean silence of the mind, which is freedom from endless mental conversations, rooted mostly in fear and self importance, and from unfounded and domineering expectations that undermine sensitivity to the here and now.
You can read Susan’s story in her own words at Susan. You can also read her essay, Simplicity and Silence, at This I Believe.
If you would like to read about other women living with cancer, click on "Cancer Heroes" below.