Last Friday the music world lost another pioneer. “MCA”, otherwise known as Adam Yauch, of the Beastie Boys died at age 47 after a near three-year battle with cancer. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/05/04/bloomberg_articlesM3IFRL0D9L3501-M3IJU.DTL Wow, this one really hit home. MCA was my age & the Beastie Boys were my generation. (No Sleep till Brooklyn was a requirement for my frequent drives between Boston and NYC.) And when I need a shift in energy, the Beastie Boys are guaranteed to deliver.
Today one of my favorite canine friends & co-workers, Sydney, lost her lengthy battle with canine cancer. Each of us is affected by cancer, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it is a loved one, family member, or friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes it is a musician/producer/director whose work we admired or a pet whom we’ve loved.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012 there will be 1500 deaths per day as a result of cancer. Cancer has become so prevalent in our culture that the New York Times has a dedicated blogger, Suleika Jaouad, who posts weekly about her battle with leukemia. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/suleika-jaouad/
Recently, in addition to seeing clients in my private psychotherapy practice, I began offering counseling services through the Cancer Support Community, an international non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing support, education, and hope to people affected by cancer – http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/ . As a result, I am faced with issues related to cancer on a daily basis. Initially, I was concerned about the impact of counseling cancer patients and how it would impact my own psyche and well-being. I was concerned that in addition to being satisfying work it might also feel depressing and overwhelming. What I’ve discovered is that my concern was unfounded. While the people I counsel have unimaginable stories of sorrow and struggle, they also have inspiring stories of courage, human kindness, generosity, and love. Rather than getting off the phone feeling drained or depleted I feel inspired, energized, and most importantly, grateful.
How is it that people struggling with cancer and faced with life and death decisions are the ones who remind me most of the power of presence, the gift of gratitude, and the comfort of compassion?
Obviously not everyone battling cancer is generous, kind, and open-hearted. Some of the people I counsel are hurt, angry and unhappy. Yet, somehow, regardless of whom I’m speaking to I am reminded that presence, gratitude, and compassion are choices and we can choose to practice them, or not.