The Struggle to Stay Present

As I continue this cancer journey with my dad I am being given lessons that I need.  I still find it ironic that one of the WORST diseases that can happen to a person, somehow turns into the biggest life lessons one can have.  Recently the word "mindfulness" has become mainstream, as has "staying present", "being centered", "meditation"... there are more and more people that realize that life can be more enjoyable if they just SLOW DOWN and allow the flow of life to happen, instead of fighting against the natural current.  I am not saying that we should all "lay down" and not fight for things; but consistently trying to "figure out" what will happen next is exhausting and futile.  The illusion that we somehow have control over situations, illness, outcomes sets us up for disappointment, the feeling of failure and a lot of unneeded anxiety.  

Last Monday I knew there was something very wrong with my father.  He was slurring his speech, his eyes were not focusing and appeared foggy. When we got to his oncologist for IV fluids and his iron infusion his blood pressure was 90/60... not too terrible, but still not good.  The nurses gave him his fluids and after a 2 hour infusion his blood pressure should have gone up, it didn't.  The last read was 75/49.  I told the nurse that I was "not comfortable" taking him home with blood pressure that low, she agreed, phoned the doctor and I was advised to take my father to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.  As we drove, which is only 15 minutes, his symptoms became worse.  He was speaking nonsense, was unaware of his surroundings and he was becoming agitated.  I arrived at the ER, took him in and they did his vitals... low blood pressure & very low heart rate.  The intake nurse took him back immediately.  

Normally, I am the MASTER at panicking .... I was one of those people that would jump into the future, expecting the worst, and would work myself into the biggest panic attacks.  So much so that in my early 20's I was prescribed Paxil to help "calm" my anxiety.  Not this time... as the nurses and doctors came in and out of the room we were in, I made a promise to myself that I would STAY PRESENT.  But, I have never committed to doing that before, so what did it really mean?  The ER is a busy place, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, patients, visitors all in a state of urgency; and rightfully so.  I sat next to my father, held his hand and asked to just "be". I told myself that I would ask questions and really listen to answers; I would not allow my mind to drift into the future and "guess" what was going on with my father.  I knew deep down that he was OK, just dehydrated and had too many drugs in his system.  When the doctor told me that a head CT was needed, panic set in for a moment.  What if the cancer has spread to his brain?  Would he ever be "himself" again?   I told myself that it was routine (which I confirmed with his Dr) and I would not react until there was a need to react.

After hours of tests, deciding to admit him for further test and monitoring, I was aware that I stayed present during everything.  I did not panic, I did not play the "what if" game; I just was.  Even with others and outside influences of their energy I remained calm.  This was a HUGE lesson for me and I was so proud of myself for making the choice and sticking to it.  Not knowing what was going on with my father was very stressful; yet the decision to just be present with what was going on around me was a blessing.  I now know that I am capable of staying present even in the most stressful situations.  The outcome was as I suspected, dehydrated and too many dugs for his system to filter.  I understand that this was ONE situation, however, I now understand that I have the tools to avoid a lot of undue stress and anxiety.  Control has always been a struggle for me, ask my parents and brother, but every situation that has been tethered to this cancer journey has taught me how to stay present, even if it is a struggle.  

A very wise person once said to me "the only things you can control are your mouth and your muscles,".... she was right.  I can control what I say and how I react to things.  That is all.  Learning to TRUST that life is happening FOR me and not TO me is one of the greatest lessons to learn.