We all go through life wearing a meat sack that is our body. It is not us but rather just the outward manifestation, what we wear around as we move through life. This container, vessel, handy carrying case is issued at birth and sticks around until we leave. It operates pretty much independently of our conscience mind pretty much doing its' own thing and generally providing a safe place of refuge. As we grow up we quickly learn many of the operational limitations of our bodies, what it will allow and what it won't allow (like getting drunk as a teenager and puking everywhere), or all the changes associated with puberty, or from a male perspective the daily experience of morning wood. But what happens when things go awry? When we feel that our body betrays us by breaking down. Not the normal aging process that comes with entropy and biological processes but rather an active revolt. The first time I recognized this emotion was with the brain tumor, I initially took it as a personal affront and that our alliance was not so much a partnership but rather just a meeting of overlapping mutual interests. Speaking with my sister and comparing notes, her with leukemia and me with first the brain tumor and now colon cancer we had exactly the same thoughts, our bodies let us down. While we can blame it on genetics, lifestyle, past choices but it all boils down to a parting of the ways between who we are and the meat sack we wander around in. A close friend recently joked when he asked “who did you piss off? First the brain tumor now this”. I don't believe I pissed anyone off it is just chance that I would get to play this game twice.
So what does this have to do with my current adventure? Well several things, first of all the idea of privacy. As a patient, privacy goes out the window. For the professionals to do their jobs they are going to see the meat sack in all its' glorious imperfections. I realized that with the brain tumor, the professionals are there to fix the meat sack not me, so I had to get over the idea of privacy. Second, how we see ourselves. I passed by a full length mirror yesterday and was shocked at what I saw. Although I never carried much weight, 150-155 weight stable, the loss of 25 lbs over the past 8 weeks shows clearly on my body. Thighs are thin and I can almost put my hand completely around my bicep. The fat mass is gone and muscle mass is going. A somewhat discouraging sight, but remember it is not me it is just the bag of flesh that carries me around. Finally, after making a trip to the cancer center at Memorial hospital early yesterday, my sister and I emerged to a waiting area full of patients. My sister observed that as we passed by, everyone looked at me then lowered their head. They were there with their own personal battles and here comes this emaciated old fart who didn't look so good. Not great encouragement for those dealing with similar issues. But I take faith in the fact that although I and my body are parting ways, what you physically see is not me. And I don't feel betrayed by my body and recognize that the parting of the ways is nothing personal, I moving on and my body will be recycled.
The last photograph of me in New Mexico may be found here. I'm the skinny guy on the right.
A recent commenter on this post made a great suggestion, instead of meat sack how about "earth suit", which is a much better description of what we walk around in. So mentally please substitute earth suit for meat sack in the above post. As I have said before "language is our common currency and some days my wallet is empty", and clearly it was an empty wallet day when writing and editing this post. Thanks to Timothy for an eminently practical suggestion.