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Learning (Again) to Dance with the Wind

By Susan Tweit

One recent morning we sat in the VA Medical Center in Denver waiting for Richard’s oncology consult, followed, if all looked well with his blood work, by his third infusion of Avastin, a chemotherapy drug that aims to slow the growth of the aggressive glioblastoma colonizing his right brain.

After his oncologist beckoned us into her examination room, she asked how he is doing, and then looked at each of us in turn, waiting for our responses.

He and I agreed that even though he still experiences some confusion, his brain seems to be recovering gradually, day by day. She listened, gave him a quick neurology test, and asked a few more questions.

I asked what came next after this infusion. (The original plan was three Avastin infusions on a provisional basis, to see how the drug would affect him.)

“Continue the Avastin infusions,” she said.

“For how long?”

“As long as they seem to be helping. We’ll see what the next MRI looks like.”

My spirits sagged. I had been imagining that after this infusion we’d get a break, time to settle in at home and get into a routine of “normal” life, time to just be.

As she continued speaking, I realized that I’d been looking at it wrong. This every-two-weeks excursion to Denver for the infusions, a trip which always ends up requiring two nights and the better part of three days, is “normal” life now.

This is our new rhythm. I just need to adjust my dance to go with it.


One of the lessons I learned long ago in living with a chronic illness – Lupus – is that life’s a whole lot easier if you sway to the “wind” of the illness, staying flexible so you can bend with its buffeting force, rather than tensing up and perhaps breaking.

Which does not mean giving up. It’s critical to “elder” the illness in every way you can, using all the tools you have in various wellness traditions to keep it manageable.

It’s also critical to know when to be flexible. A chronic illness is like the wind that inhabits the valley we live in, a daily force that shapes the landscape and all who live here.

Resistance makes you hard and brittle, breakable; learning to bend, to dance with its currents, develops strength and resilience.

Learning flexibility and dancing to the rhythm of the wind of any illness is not easy. It’s a daily practice of wellness, a path involving listening to your body, attending to what it’s saying, listening to the medicines and wellness practices and attending to what they’re doing, and yes, listening to the illness – and making adjustments large and small all along the way.

While Richard snoozed at the infusion center that morning and the chemo drug dripped into his veins, I thought about what “normal” means, about how to flex my life, my writing, to this particular dance of the wind of his brain cancer.

I’m can’t quite see clearly how to do that, but I’m going to stay open to the possibility. And heaven knows, we’ve had plenty of wind lately, both literally and figuratively – if practice helps, I’ll be swaying along soon …


Award-winning writer Susan J. Tweit is the author of 12 books, and can be contacted through her web site, or her blog,