Struggle or Swim?

Once faced with the diagnosis of cancer, my biggest challenge was in choosing what approach to take.

It felt like a cruelly urgent “do or die” exercise in learning to trust my own intuition AND rational thought when faced with the expertise of medical science (and the $7 billion cancer industry lurking behind it), the art and efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the experience of others who have walked their own path with cancer and the opinions of those who know me sometimes better than I know myself.

And the day I realized that there was no single, right pathway to take with a promised, certain outcome, was monumental. I woke up to the fundamental truth that I had no control over whether I would live or die. I was frightened beyond words, yet liberated and relieved at the same time. My breathing calmed and expanded and everything looked brighter and more miraculous.

This poem was my best way to describe how it felt to me, and it still gives me shivers as I remember the darkness and horror of having to choose, and then the surrender that followed.

Will you 
Struggle or Swim 
frantic or form
to escape murky waters below?
Will you thrash and flail or flutter and crawl,
choose to float and go with the flow?

The Struggle;
a breathless, self-righteous “can do”;
‘I’ll beat this predicament, I’ll show ‘em who’s who’.
It will keep you busy, feels like control
But exhausts you from kicking at shadows below.

To Swim;
takes learning, trusting the science
stroke by stroke; total reliance
on those who have studied, know what it’s all for
- to increase your chances of reaching the shore.

And then there’s the Flow
the inexorable pull, 
ebbing tides, pale moons new and full.
There’s floating and sinking, 
washed up on rocks,
a soft, sandy footfall, 
And barnacled docks.

And slowly, slowly while moved through time
the choices are clearer, the peace is sublime.
There’s choosing between, 
there’s trusting it all.
There’s wishing for miracles, 
and scaling the wall.

And once on top absorbing the view
of each moment to come, each choice fresh and new,
a smile shines your lips
feeling glad that you came
to know that life’s precious - a marvellous game
of perspective, relationship, grind and grace
no longer a fight or unwinnable race.

I wish for us all to wake up to the wonder
we knew as a child or when death threatens plunder
of our golden hearts, our fondest hopes.
May we live in each moment, relinquish our tropes.

So when in deep water, dark below
Will you struggle, swim,
Go with the flow?

Emma Jarrett – All Rights Reserved.