After 74 years I made a personal pilgrimage to the site of the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. The reason: My father had worked there as an architect and supervisor in the summer of 1942, constructing a makeshift prison for the thousands of Japanese Americans who would soon be forced to inhabit it.
Not long ago I had a first-hand experience of illness as metaphor. Suddenly I found that my sense of balance was completely out of whack. Moving my head made the world spin. As an audiologist I was quite aware of the irony of vertigo making me miss a meeting all about new discoveries in hearing science. But as a writer and a spiritual seeker, I was also aware of the metaphor. The frenetic pace of my recent weeks had thrown my whole system off balance. The metaphor was perfect.
You may wonder why I chose the labyrinth for the Bacho Press logo. I felt that it was a very fitting symbol for the journey that Jack and I took toward healing. Its twists, turns, and seemingly false starts are characteristic of pilgrimages, especially when they involve life threatening illness. But they also resemble life’s ordinary challenges.
In this post I’m going to share something about my emotional condition during our adventure in healing, even though this is really more my husband’s story than mine. But it seems that the hardships of the spouse or care-giving family members are often neglected. The feelings that arise in the cancer spouse/partner can be troublesome because they can be very negative, while the cultural expectation is that the care-giver is tireless, patient, and loving.
The subtitle of my book, An Uncommon Cancer Journey, is The Cosmic Kick That Healed Our Lives. This phrase comes from a remark that my husband, Jack Hardesty, made about his gratitude for developing cancer. He called it his “Cosmic kick in the ass.” It sounds astonishing that anyone would think of cancer with gratitude. And it can surely be a terrible tragedy. But to Jack it was a blessing.
Once he was well, Jack would say repeatedly that beauty was one of the most important ingredients of his healing. Whenever we travelled, we always made sure to go to the local art museum. It was while he was receiving treatment at the Janker Klinik in Bonn, Germany, that he developed the plan to open an art gallery some day, and several years later he did.