I want to write a comedy piece on cancer, having been disappointed that the jokes on Comedy vs. Cancer night that Sloan Kettering put together were comedy routines that the comedians usually perform. They were funny, no doubt, they spoke about outdoor restaurants made of cardboard and wood, family, culture and the like, but nothing that touched my heart. I have been fighting cancer for over 3 years. Well, that’s a funny term because I am not in a boxing ring with cancer as my opponent. I am more of a passive fighter or a struggler. I was probed and prodded in order to find out that I had cancer. I had MRI’s, CT scans, pet scans and biopsies to find out what was wrong, more tests in 6 months than I had in a lifetime. Then I received poisonous injections and pills for 6 months and lied around exhausted and hairless for a few more months. I had my blood taken out and put back in with new baby stem cells that I created by injecting myself with who-knows-what and lied around for another year. Then there was a period of time where I was supposedly in remission, with the pressure to move on only to find myself back on my sofa again feeling depleted with cancer winning the next round and I never got the opportunity to punch out cancer in a boxing ring. Perhaps a tickling match might be worth a try.
So, fighting, battling, or struggling with cancer wasn’t for me, I lost 2 for 2 and felt demoralized. Then the Comedy Vs. Cancer night made me want to try to approach cancer from another angle. I wanted this night to touch my soul with a brand of humor that tickled my heart and lift it to a happier place. But I’ve also been thinking about the Fool, the first card in the major arcana’s tarot cards. – what would the fool do if he or she had cancer?
I refer to the fool as he or she because in many decks the Fool is an androgynous figure. Funny! I feel like that too – Cancer left me 60 pounds lighter with limp hair, flat chested and no waist. If I don’t put on makeup, earrings, and girly clothes, I can easily be mistaken for a boy. I am finding a freedom in androgyny to not be identified with a particular sex, and it is an uplifting feeling to be able to be who you are — untethered by sex role stereotypes. This is an appealing quality about the Fool as in Jung and the Tarot the author states that the Fool is “free and unencumbered by society.” I can be funny, curious, passive, or assertive and it’s not attached to a sex role, however being older — we are forgotten people — can give one that same feeling though that is another story.
The author of Jung and the Tarot also states that the fool carries, “carries wisdom, madness and folly, bridging unconscious mayhem with structured consciousness.”
When I think about life with cancer, that sentence catches my attention because cancer is mayhem in my body. There are symptoms and pills, exhaustion, vulnerability both physical and emotional and so it is difficult to maintain an untethered emotional state for long, though there are periods where spiritual peace is attainable, where I can transcend from what is going on in my body and connect with my soul in a higher state of consciousness. I imagine the fool having those periods of time as longer lasting than my fleeting moments. I imagine the fool – with a facial expression of ecstasy – walking freely along the path of chaos and peace balancing both with carefree ease.
I imagine the Fool is not bothered by days of no energy because he/she rests when needed and is unattached to the feeling of sadness that I carry when those moments of exhaustion hit me. The fool will rest blissfully and continue its journey at a later date. There are no concerns for time elements, nor does the Fool need to worry about losing health coverage because there is faith that it will all work out.
A book by called Tarot Therapy by Janet Woudhuysen states that the fool doesn’t know where he is going but knows that you don’t reach perfection by standing still. That feels so satisfying to me because the Fool doesn’t need an agenda and a list of questions written out before a doctor visit: the Fool has faith that it will all work out the way it should – in the best of all possible worlds, as Candide once wisely said, while I worry that I missed a question, or that something else will happen that may or may not occur, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying.
I imagine that the Fool will go about its journey with cancer with faith and ease, especially if he is treated at Sloan Kettering, but the question of how the Fool would handle a recurrence is the next issue at hand, as the Fool knows that our growth process and life lessons, are not straight lines forward. Sometimes there are detours and regressions that occur before we can move forward again. This is what a cancer recurrence is, a detour: It can feel like you’re back at square 1 but lessons learned don’t get unlearned, it just takes a while to get back on your feet — the Fool doesn’t judge, but instead merrily moves forward with a white rose held delicately in his left hand representing secrets that are yet to be discovered.