How do we cope when life throws us off track with a blinder such as cancer? Where do we turn for understanding and solace?
There’s wisdom in ancient words if we know how to listen.
Caroline’s cancer journey has included the highs and lows of my life: –
Desolation that Caroline’s diagnosis was cancer, euphoria that it hadn’t spread.
Abhorrence at the poison to treat it, gratitude that it can be treated.
Happiness that chemo is shrinking the tumour, fear that it won’t work fully or will return.
Grief for the life Caroline had, joy that she is alive.
Confusion at my best friend’s death from cancer, sadness at missing her funeral due to Caroline’s chemo, gladness to be involved in funeral arrangements.
Worry at the cost of this America trip, relief at a charity grant.
Isolation from friends and family, the generosity of strangers.
Unprecedented support in America, terrorism and a tower block fire back home.
Grief and euphoria, pleasure and pain. Some might say wolves at the door.
I love wolves though.
One gets used to this conflict of living, it often goes unnoticed. It’s just how life is for all of us whether enduring stress and trauma or not.
Cherokee Wolf Proverb
On trying to make sense of it all, the goodness and badness, love, hate, life, death, despair and hope, I turned to a special friend, a Catholic priest in fact. Far from quoting the Bible or regurgitating some dusty doctrine, he emailed me this:-
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
– author unknown
It’s origins may be lost in time and it probably isn’t even Cherokee, but that takes nothing away from the symbolism of the words nor their value in all of our lives.
At a certain level there is a soul element to this proverb, about the things we can do to connect with our ‘higher’ selves.
At a human level it teaches Caroline how to fight the bad days.
It teaches me how to rub away the dark ones.
It tells us how to approach pain and sorrow, how to seek and maintain contentment.
It goes some way to explaining how a terrorist becomes capable of behaviour so juxtaposed to the American stranger who bought Caroline a cuddly monkey when he saw she was ill.
Can we change those who feed the wrong wolf? We can certainly pray that somehow they will come to understanding and change themselves.
We CAN choose which of our own wolves to feed. Right now I’m feeding hope and love.
Duma (N American) and Latea (European)
Thank you to a wonderful spiritual director for your inspiration, prayers and your gentle love and understanding.
I took these photos in 2007 at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. UKWCT staff very kindly confirmed the animals’ names for me. There was also a wolf called Dakota who developed cancer in 2007 and put up a courageous 3 year fight…
I will write about these wonderful wolves in future. To read more about Caroline’s cancer journey see Caroline’s Rainbow.