Recovery and Remission, “One Day at a Time”

IMG_0475Recovery and Remission, “One Day at a Time”

I have been musing on the relationship between recovery from substance abuse and remission from cancer. It feels significant that one group walks alongside their addiction, one day at a time, toward sobriety –much like the cancer “survivors” walk alongside their illness—and fear of relapse– toward remission. Call me a survivor if you like. I won’t argue because it is true of all of us on the planet. But those of us who have “survived” a cancer occurrence can feel its steely presence just out of reach of ordinary conversation. The saying and practices of those who walk alongside addiction are powerful truths that don’t shrink from acknowledging the possibility of recurrence while bolstering a person’s grit and courage to face it down everyday.

Recovery themes that I am really appreciating:

One Day at a Time Means Focusing on What You Can Control

One Day at a Time Means Counting the Little Victories

One Day at a Time Means Staying within Yourself

From From

I take it in with gratitude. I trust people who have been knocked down and get up again.

A Year to Live

It’s a practice, not a diagnosis.

“This day, as ordinary and uneventful as it seems…is one of the relatively few you have left. Do something worthy of it. When Death shows up to give you news you didn’t want and see coming, may it interrupt you in the act of really living.” John Pavlovitz


On a day when I had no energy, i drove out to our National Park and encountered this fox. 

I read A Year to Live, by Stephen Levine quite awhile ago, long before all this cancer business. Even gave a talk on it. Now, I look back on that time with a bit of irony. How much I didn’t know, I think. I didn’t know how visceral it was to really do this practice with the distinct possibility that it could be true. I didn’t know how BUSY it would be—in the head and the heart and the mind. A year left to live, unless you are taken over by pain or incalculable fatigue, or nausea so powerful it is your only reality . . . all of which I have had. . .  so I know how miraculous it is to hold that thought without those debilitating elements.  Because a year left to live means so many things it is overwhelming. So, which is more important? To rest when you need it, or soak up every minute of time with your family, to exercise, or to speak your truth to power, or to organize and settle your work legacy (in my case, this has been very important), or to be in nature, or recover and enhance spirituality and faith, or to eat well, or to celebrate and talk with friends and say all the things you need to say, or maybe write that book and fully encourage your creativity to bloom? The answer is all of the above, of course. But I didn’t know how true that was until I had cancer.

Sometimes, I go hard . Too hard. I feel good. I take the exercise class and secretly compete out of the corner of my eye. Then I schedule a walk and we move fast. And by the time I do all the errands and greet all the people my small town requires, I feel suddenly perilously close to exhaustion. Driving home in a low blood sugar fog, images chase each around in my head, as if I almost drowned—and now the lapping water I’d been playing in is rising—and I start to panic. What is it? The answer is short and stark and laughably simple. I’m tired.


Modeling our Christmas elephant pants

Fatigue was something I didn’t mess around with during chemo. It caught me and held me with fangs I couldn’t escape. Yes, I have PTSD about being so drained and weary I couldn’t even rise to level of normal life functions. Don’t worry, I tell myself, it will pass. Still, I come inside with a single minded focus. To recover. Food and drink and rest. I sigh with the pleasure of it: to be in my own home, watching birds out the window, a story at my side, no one to answer to for as long as it takes to convalesce for a few hours—until my body regains its delicate energy once again.


Steve at the Fairy Ring on Skye, Scotland

The following is from a blog I have appreciated.

“In an article by Arthur W. Frank, he suggests that we are living in a ‘remission society,’ where patients are “effectively well but could never be considered cured’’’. In Frank’s ‘remission society,’ the patient is always caught in a void between health and illness.

The Loneliness (and Sometimes Anger) of Cancer’s After Effects

When I go to see my counselor, often the thing that pours out of me is loneliness. People are quick to remind me that “everyone has something”. Of course. I know that. Permit me just a little frustration for all the hours spent with Dr. Google.

The experience of loneliness seems to be one of the unarticulated experiences of such a survivor. I wake up with a sudden feeling of faintness. There is no one to ask. The busy doctors and nurses, in their overwhelmed world, can barely keep up with the demands of their acute patients. Hours go by, keeping company with a symptom that is so elusive. Is it tied to the vomiting episodes I had last week? First order of business is to get lab tests. My slow scrutiny of each value must be nothing like the doctors’ quick perusal. They look for acute warning signs. I am looking for warning patterns.

I know I get arrhythmias. During chemo, my heart suffered mightily enough to be challenged by an effusion which was threatening enough to really get the doctor’s attention when I was in the hospital. But in the steps leading up to admission. That’s what I am trying to prevent.

dragon Is it the powerful drug “dragon” called Ponatinib? The label names many possible heart conditions that it could cause. I try to check off the possibilities, knowing full well that many, possibly including my doctors, would call this behavior Hypochondria. Okay, I say. I understand that you have never been attacked with chemical agents before. You have never had sudden diabetes brought on by prednisone. You have never had to wear a holter monitor for a month because your heart was freaking out from the chemical assault. You have never had to count out immunosuppressants that both threaten and save your life.  I can’t be the ideal patient (quiet and submissive). If it gets bad enough to be acute, they will be there. But until then, I need to participate in everyway I can.

Lastly. Gratitude. The Most Powerful Medicine.

I am grateful for so much I cannot list it all. I am grateful to have this IV line that is right now in my vein pumping IVIG to replace the B-cell that get gobbled up by the Car T-Cells.


“Immune globulin products from human plasma were first used in 1952 to treat immune deficiency. Intravenousimmunoglobulin (IVIG) contains the pooledimmunoglobulin G (IgG) immunoglobulins from the plasma of approximately a thousand or more blood donors”.

Think about that. A thousand or more donors. Thank you, unknown altruistic peeps! Thank you, quite literally, for my life.


Ancient Oak, Ireland












19 comments on “Recovery and Remission, “One Day at a Time”

  1. So I look at your exhaustive routine on the island, and you are tired. I don’t understand. Why do that? Touching base with people or places you feel a need to, why? Sitting on your beautiful porch, and just being. There. It would seem that that is the moment to be. Who are you busy beeing for? It’s all for naught in the final analysis. And it’s the survivors who analyze anyway. Relax. Steve knows. Stop running?

    • Gary, I am not ready to sit on the porch. I have an active grandchild. I have volunteer work that helps the community and the environment that I love. I have years of work that ask to be put into legacy of some sort, since my career ended rather abruptly. And, I spent months literally or metaphorically sitting on the “porch” , so now, when I feel good, I want to exercise so I have the strength to go out and enjoy the fabulous nature that surrounds me. The miracle for me is that after a few hours of rest, I CAN resume what I am doing and it is incredibly satisfying to be able to do this. I still do rest for a few hours every day.

      • I understand better now. You are the captain of your ship, so you know. It’s a balance exercise, for each of us. Sitting on the ‘porch’ or running in the streets. Myself being somewhat not in balance. It’s always been easier for me to see and comment in what others might need to help themselves. Even as I was lacking. I never bought into the hypocrisy argument. Just because I’m not, does not mean I can not comment on what maybe should be. Maybe I’m off topic. But I am here listening to you, and thinking of you. And enjoy, mostly what is being said. love gary

      • Thanks, listening is what’s important. I do have many sweet sweet moments of being. I just like to splash in puddles with Audrey, wrap my arms around my favorite trees, take exercise classes from Mariya and ponder many things, as well as laugh and talk with friends. But I also just sit and watch the birds… a lot. Hope you are well, brother.

  2. Dearest Shann: Again, I am so humbled by your wise and powerful attitude!
    I looked up to and admired you in Beachwatchers and now I am even more awed by your outlook. You are still my HERO!!!

  3. As someone who is also surviving life one day at a time, thank you for the occasional reminders. As my old Methodist grandmother used to say, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

  4. Thank you…& yay for gratitude: often more rejuvenating than sleep, and blessedly free of of odd dreams. You have me creating my joyscape in place of my sometimes anxious dreamscape. ❤️

    • Suli! Your encounter with the moose and caf was intense, and funny all at once! There’s more than one way of reckoning with the nowness of now. I am really also working on contentment, leaning against my natural restlessness. It is a good practice. Thank you for being you.

  5. Dear Shann,

    Your post has been printed for reading aloud so Ed and I can share our thoughts.

    Professionally, without reading it, I say you “should” send this one out in the world — American Cancer Society, magazines for cancer patients and those for addiction, etc.

    The title is perfect and at least I have not seen that connection made.

    BRAVA! (as always), Alice ========== Alice B. Acheson, Book Marketing/Publishing Consultant P. O. Box 735 Friday Harbor, WA 98250 360/378-2815 Do It Yourself Life wrote on 2/21/2018 3:02 PM: > > Shann Weston posted: “Recovery and Remission, “One Day at a Time” I > have been musing on the relationship between recovery from substance > abuse and remission from cancer. It feels significant that one group > walks alongside their addiction, one day at a time, toward sobriety –m” >

  6. Hi, Shann,

    Have now read it, and still think you should send it out into the world.

    That introductory photo is fabulous; the others aren’t shabby either.  Loved the ancient oak as well.

    Alice ========== Alice B. Acheson, Book Marketing/Publishing Consultant P. O. Box 735 Friday Harbor, WA 98250 360/378-2815 Do It Yourself Life wrote on 2/21/2018 3:02 PM: > > Shann Weston posted: “Recovery and Remission, “One Day at a Time” I > have been musing on the relationship between recovery from substance > abuse and remission from cancer. It feels significant that one group > walks alongside their addiction, one day at a time, toward sobriety –m” >

    • Ah, Alice–you are a marvel. So supportive and encouraging and gracious Thank you. Yes, I am back to writing again and more. It took me a long time to regain some energy to do so after the transplant. But now, I feel I have woken up, essentially. I only have so much time. Right now, my focus is on putting my legacy about the Salish Sea into the hands of the Whale Museum in a way that preserves my thinking and history but doesn’t NEED me to be the one to deliver it, for the time when I am not around. That will be done in April. After that, it is time to focus on the blog. I can only hope nothing changes between now and then. It’s all a race to the finish, isn’t it?

  7. When I got off the ferry Wednesday night, returning home from celebrating my b’earthday with my Spirit Parents in Port Townsend, I read your post. I’d just been reading “A Year To Live” on the ferry…. a book I find comforting. Not sure why- if I am intuiting something- but over the last four months or so, I can taste death and feel that edge like its about to happen. I can feel the depth of joy and sorrow that will come together with that moment. Hmmm. And so I picked up that book! (Laughing) My dear hula sister had been reading it the year before she died!

    I feel fortunate that you share in such a raw, real, open hearted way, Shann. I am eager to read each of your posts. I am always touched deeply by your journey and the wisdom you choose to see in it, and share- with other souls still in a body. So grateful for your willingness to openly offer the whole range of experiences you walk. Listening to your story will help me when its time for me to leave this world. Your way with language flows easily in to my Heart, like the words of a river when I sit near by.

    Looking forward to that working visit one day….
    Aloha pumehana, Alice

    • Thank YOu. Nice to see you yesterday, Alice. Yes, it is a book that seems to have a calling these days. Death is all around us, in the world events and in so many choices that people are making. But Milla Price had so many gifts for us, didn’t she? I will definitely share with you. I don’t know how I could’ve made sense of all she said without my notes. Let’s plan a date.

  8. Thank you for continuing to share your deepest reflections about the challenging journey you’ve been on Shann. Great photos, too.
    I marvel at how you can survive such things and continue to see (and do) so much good in the world. Your light shines so brightly. The loneliness must be very hard….. sending you hugs across the water.
    Much love,

    • Thank you! I went to an amazing talk yesterday on the Age of Loneliness by a young woman who is a master herbalist and environmentalist. It’s a term coined by Ecologist E.O. Wilson for describing life where we currently living as the 6th Great mass extinction unfolds around us. That is the true loneliness and it is certainly mixed with my personal loneliness as a person in remission in the modern medical world. And the solutions are the same. Face it. Fall in love with the earth an act from that. Don’t settle for an impoverished future. Don’t act out of anger but don’t surrender being fierce. Stand for what is holy. Come together with other people in community to decide what we can do about it. Remove the outcome and just do your work. So much wisdom. It gave me much hope for our future.

  9. You are my hero. I know that path of loneliness; you define it so beautifully. Despite 20 years passing, the Big C lurks in the shadows. Over the past 9 months, I’ve trudged the road with my sister who was diagnosed with lymphoma; it has been hard. Your words remind me of ways to love, be, encourage, listen. Thank you, Shann.

    • Thanks, Ruth. It has a big footprint, doesn’t it? Cancer re-frames everything. Many other things do this, as well, of course. I only know this one. You don’t go back to the same life you inhabited. And that is a gift in some ways but you can’t dismiss the grief and the changes that diminish. I think the only solution is to grow bigger arms to hold it all.

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