Friday, October 31, 2008

" O Canada, We stand on guard for thee" The Canadian National Anthem by Lavallee and Weir

Dr. Wendy Harpham, author of the must read book for anyone with cancer, Happiness in a Storm, asked me some time ago about the cost of my eternal vigilance. 

Takes me back to morning assemblies singing to the flag in grade school in Toronto. Standing on guard.

We all know that stress leads to release of powerful chemicals in the body. Dr. Hans Seyle, a fellow Montreal native, pioneered this work, and made a strong impression on me in my medical school days. Of particular note is the flood of cortisol, which not only makes us more alert and calms inflammation, but more importantly for our discussion, suppresses our immunity. 

Hey wait a minute! Does that mean just when I need to be on a search and destroy mission that would make the house to house fighting in Iraq look like a lazy afternoon in the parking lot before a 80's Dead concert, my body is betraying me. Could be. Like quantum physics, the act of looking changes the behavior of the observed. Full time fight or flight will wear me out and damper my response to true enemies. Worse than Aesop's shepherd boy crying wolf, I could be putting the safety locks on all my ammunition.

Leaving the biochemical level behind, just think of the psychological toll. Are the mental fatigue, the emotional drainage and the missed moments of joy and celebration too high a price to pay for a possible earlier warning  for an event, namely a relapse that I am counting on not happening? And what difference, if any, would that early warning make ?

It is fair to ask if this is an existential search for the illusion of control by being so darn proactive. Am I stilling my fears by doing something, anything that might help?

Maybe, but if it is stilling my fears, if it is creating some shelter in the storm, albeit a fragile figment that whispers I might have more control than I realize, then why not. If it is empowering and preemptive, I am game.

The vigilance becomes calming. The cortisol level drop. 

At least for me. 

Other are more easily reassured, and a searchlight shining into every corner of their worst fears would just rob them of good sleep.

Like the tight rope walker, it is all about balance.



Blogger goodydogs said...

Sometimes God calms the storm-
Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child!
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass-
It's about learning to DANCE IN THE RAIN.

November 2, 2008 at 3:38 AM  

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