THE WEDDING WAS SET for November 26, a few months away. In the meantime we busied ourselves with all the necessary preparations. That is to say, Treya busied herself with all the necessary preparations. I wrote a book.
This particular book, Quantum Questions, centered on the remarkable fact that virtually every one of the great pioneers of modern physics – men like Einstein and Schroedinger and Heisenberg – were spiritual mystics of one sort or another, an altogether extraordinary situation. The hardest of the sciences, physics, had run smack into the tenderest of religions, mysticism. Why? And what exactly was mysticism, anyway?
So Beyond Physics I collected the writings of Einstein, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Louis de Broglie, Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli, Sir Arthur Eddington, and Sir James Jeans. The scientific genius of these men is beyond dispute (all but two were Nobel laureates); what is so amazing, as I said, is that they all shared a profoundly spiritual or mystical worldview, which is perhaps the last thing one would expect from pioneering scientists.
The essence of mysticism is that in the deepest part of your own being, in the very center of your own pure awareness, you are fundamentally one with Spirit, one with Beyond Physics Godhead, one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and unchanging fashion. Sound far out? Listen to Erwin Schroedinger, Nobel-prizewinning cofounder of modern quantum mechanics:
"It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling, and choice that you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather, this knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay, in all sensitive beings. Inconceivable as it seems to ordinary reason, you – and all other conscious beings as such – are all in all Beyond Physics. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense, the whole. . . . This is that sacred, mystic formula which is so simple and so clear 'I am in the east and in the west, I am above and below, I am this whole world.'
"Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable, as she – 'indeed, a thousand times Beyond Physics firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew. And not merely 'someday': now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once, but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end."[ii]
According to the mystics, when we go beyond or transcend our separate-self sense, our limited ego, we discover instead a Beyond Physics Supreme Identity, an identity with the All, with universal Spirit, infinite and all-pervading, eternal and unchanging. As Einstein explains: "A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison."
Indeed, the whole point Beyond Physics of meditation or contemplation – whether it appears in the East or in the West, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu – is to free ourselves from the "optical delusion" that we are merely separate egos set apart from each other and from eternal Spirit, and to discover instead that, once released from the prison of individuality, we are one with Godhead and thus one with all manifestation, in a perfectly timeless and eternal fashion.
And this is not a mere theoretical idea; it is a direct and immediate experience, which has been reported the world over from time immemorial, and which is essentially Beyond Physics identical wherever it appears. As Schroedinger put it, "Within a cultural milieu where certain conceptions have been limited and specialized, it is daring to give this conclusion the simple wording that it requires. In Christian terminology to say: 'Hence I am God Almighty' sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for a moment, and consider that in itself, the insight is not new. In Indian thought it is considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect Beyond Physics harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase Deus factus sum – I have become God."
Not in the sense that my particular ego is God – far from it – but rather that, in the deepest part of my own awareness, I directly intersect eternity. And it was this direct intersection, this mystical awareness, that so interested these pioneering physicists.
In Quantum Questions, I wanted to show how and why these great Beyond Physics physicists were all mystics, and I wanted them to be able to speak eloquently for themselves about why "the most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical" (Einstein), about how "the mechanism demands a mysticism" (de Broglie), about existing "in the mind of some eternal Spirit" (Jeans), about why "a synthesis embracing both rational understanding and the mystical experience of unity is the mythos, spoken or unspoken, of our present day and age" (Wolfgang Pauli), and about the most important relationship of all: "that of a human soul to a divine spirit" (Eddington).
Notice I was not saying that modern Beyond Physics physics itself supports or proves a mystical worldview. I was saying the physicists themselves were mystics, and not that their discipline was a mystical or somehow spiritual endeavor resulting in a religious worldview. In other words, I disagreed entirely with books such as The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, which had claimed that modern physics supported or even proved Eastern mysticism. This is a colossal error. Physics is a limited, finite, relative, and partial endeavor, dealing with a very limited aspect of reality. It does not, for example, deal with biological, psychological, economic, literary Beyond Physics, or historical truths; whereas mysticism deals with all of that, with the Whole. To say physics proves mysticism is like saying the tail proves the dog.
To use Plato's analogy of the Cave: physics gives us a detailed picture of the shadows in the Cave (relative truth), whereas mysticism gives us a direct introduction to the Light beyond the Cave (absolute truth). Study the shadows all you want, you still won't have Light.
Moreover, none of these founding physicists believed that modern physics supports a mystical or religious worldview. They believed, rather, that modern science could no longer object Beyond Physics to a religious worldview, simply because modern physics, unlike classical physics, had become acutely conscious of its extremely limited and partial role, of its total inadequacy in dealing with ultimate realities. As Eddington put it, also using Plato's analogy: "The frank realization that physical science is dealing with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances."
All of these pioneering physicists were mystics precisely because they wanted to go beyond the intrinsic limitations of physics itself to an interior and mystical awareness that, in transcending the world of shadow forms, revealed higher Beyond Physics and more enduring realities. They were mystics, not because of physics, but in spite of physics. In other words, they wanted mysticism as meta-physics, which means "beyond physics."
And as for the attempt to support a particular religious worldview by interpretations from modern physics? Einstein, representing the majority of these physicists, called the whole attempt "reprehensible." Schroedinger actually called it "sinister," and explained: "Physics has nothing to do with it. Physics takes its start from everyday experience, which it continues by more subtle means. It remains akin to it, does not transcend it generically, it cannot enter into Beyond Physics another realm . . . because [religion's] true domain is far beyond anything in reach of scientific explanation." And Eddington was decisive: "I do not suggest that the new physics 'proves religion' or indeed gives any positive grounds for religious faith. For my own part I am wholly opposed to any such attempt" (italics his).
Why? Simply imagine what would happen if we indeed said that modern physics supports mysticism. What happens, for example, if we say that today's physics is in perfect agreement with Buddha's enlightenment? What happens when tomorrow's physics supplants or replaces today's Beyond Physics physics (which it most definitely will)? Does poor Buddha then lose his enlightenment? You see the problem. If you hook your God to today's physics, then when that physics slips, that God slips with it. And that is what concerned these mystical physicists. They wanted neither physics distorted nor mysticism cheapened by a shotgun wedding.
Treya watched all this with great interest – she soon became my best editor and most trusted critic. This was a particularly satisfying book. Treya and I were both meditators; that is, we both shared a contemplative or mystical worldview, and our meditation practice Beyond Physics was a direct way to practice going beyond individuality, going beyond ego, and discovering a Self and Source beyond the mundane. That so many of the world's great physicists were also outspoken mystics was a great support. I had long ago decided that there were two types of people who believed in universal Spirit – those who were not too bright (e.g., Oral Roberts), and those who were extremely bright (e.g., Einstein). Those in between made it a point of "intellectual" merit not to believe in God, or anything transrational for that matter. Anyway, Treya and I believed in Beyond Physics God, as one's own deepest Ground and Goal, which meant we were either very bright or slightly dumb. And by "God" I do not mean an anthropomorphic father figure (or mother figure), but rather a pure awareness, or consciousness as such, that is what there is and all there is, a consciousness that one cultivates in meditation and actualizes in daily life. This mystical understanding was absolutely central to Treya, and to me, and to our life together.
Treya watched the assembly of this book with much amusement, too. She decided that, whatever else I was doing, I Beyond Physics was also trying to duck my responsibilities for the upcoming wedding. Probably true.
My connection with Treya continued to deepen, if that were possible. We were way, way, way "beyond physics"! Love is a time-honored way to transcend the separate-self sense and leap into the sublime; Treya and I held hands, closed our eyes, and jumped.
Looking back on it, we had these four pitifully short months to cement our relationship before cruel disaster would strike. The bond we formed in those few ecstatic months would have to last us through the ensuing five years of Beyond Physics a nightmarish tour through medical hell. The ordeal was so grueling that eventually Treya and I both broke. Our love almost shattered, only to resurface and literally put us both back together.
In the meantime we were calling and writing our friends, who were kind and patient with two people who had obviously gone stark raving berserk. My friends took one look at Treya and had no trouble understanding why I was babbling and spitting up on myself. Treya's friends, who had never seen her babble over anything, found the whole situation immensely enjoyable. I was Beyond Physics uncharacteristically short-spoken; Treya uncharacteristically long-winded.
September 2, 1983
I'll make this short. I've found her. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I've found her. Her name is Terry Killam, and she's, well . . . She's gorgeous, intelligent, even brilliant, caring, loving, warm, compassionate, . . . did I say gorgeous? did I say brilliant? . . . and something else: she has more courage and integrity than any person (male or female) I've ever known. I don't know, Bob, I'd follow this woman anywhere. She's not that bright, actually, because she Beyond Physics feels the same way about me. Ten days after we met I asked her to marry me. You believe that? She said yes, you believe that} Wedding invite to follow. Bring a friend, if you can find one.
I know you'll be there on the second day, if there is one.
September 24, 1983
Well, love, I've finally found him. Remember those lists we made, well-lubricated with sherry, our "wish-list" for the perfect man? How many years ago was that and what deadline did I choose? Who knows .. . and I had long ago Beyond Physics given up. I never, ever thought anything like this would happen to me.
His name is Ken Wilber – you've probably heard of his writings and may have read some of his books. He writes about consciousness and transpersonal psychology and his books are used a great deal at various universities (including mine, the California Institute of Integral Studies). If you haven't read his stuff I think you'd be interested, and I'll send you some of his books. He's considered by many to be the leading theorist in transpersonal studies. Ken jokes Beyond Physics that "being called the foremost theorist in transpersonal psychology is like being called the tallest building in Kansas City."
Meeting him made me realize that inside I had pretty much decided I would never find anyone I wanted to marry and would carry on through life in my old, comfortable, independent style. I've never even considered marrying someone before, even though I am thirty-six, and then along comes Mr. Ken Wilber!
We feel like we've been together forever. I have never felt such a connection with any man before in my life; it's as if the very cells Beyond Physics of my being are connected to him, and as if that kind of connection is simply the most concrete and immediate expression of a connection between us that exists on all levels, even the most subtle. I have never felt so loved and accepted, or so loving and accepting of another person, in my life. He is definitely the man for me! Actually, the hardest thing for me was getting used to the fact that he shaves his head (he's a Zen Buddhist and has been practicing meditation for twelve or thirteen years, and he got Beyond Physics in the habit of shaving his head). He's thirty-four years old, six-foot-four, thin, with a beautiful and very clear face and a wonderful body. I'll try to enclose a picture, and I'll also send you some of his books.
- Finding him also made me feel somewhat vindicated . . . that sounds like a strong way to describe it, but it's the sense I had. That following my own inner sense of direction, as confused as it may have looked on the surface, really was leading me somewhere. The sense we have is that we've known Beyond Physics each other before and have been looking for each other again in this lifetime. ... I don't know if I believe that way of describing things actually, but it's an accurate metaphor for how we feel. He does feel like my soulmate, corny as that word sounds. Being with Ken is filling up some of those inner places of self-doubt and doubt of the universe. I have great respect for his work and his intelligence, and I love the way his intelligence shows through in all aspects of his life. He's also got an incredible Beyond Physics sense of humor – he keeps me laughing all the time! – and a lightness about how he lives his life, which is good for me. I feel very loved and recognized by him, in a way I've never experienced before. He is the most loving, kind, supportive man I've ever known. The relationship feels very natural, very easy, not a lot of issues to work through. More like, oh, there you are, I've been looking for you. We make a great team and I'm really excited to see how our lives together shape up in the future Beyond Physics. An amazing thought to look ahead twenty years and know we'll still be together . . . quite an adventure! I'm really looking forward to a long life with him.
I can't quite believe it sometimes, I don't really trust the universe to let it happen, like something might change, etc. But we feel very committed to each other and I think it will be fascinating to watch the relationship and our work take shape over the years. He's pretty much moved in already and plans are moving for the wedding, which seems odd, too Beyond Physics, to be planning a wedding. We feel already married, really, and the ceremony feels like it's mostly for the family.
Well, love, that's my big news. All I've been doing lately is hanging out with Ken and keeping up with my counseling clients. It's late now and I'm tired. I'll tell you more when I see you ... at my wedding!
I keep looking at my left shoulder, staring actually, because I can't see anything. I think Treya is probably kidding; I don't know her that well. "You mean, you figuratively see Beyond Physics it."
"I don't know what it means, but I definitely saw a figure of death sitting on your left shoulder, just as plainly as I'm now looking at your face. It looked like, I don't know, like a black gremlin, just sitting there, smiling."
"You're sure this doesn't happen to you often?"
"Never. I'm sure."
"Why my left shoulder? Why me?" This is starting to get a little bizarre. With no light in the room except that cast by the dwindling fire, it's also slightly eerie.
"I don't know. But it seems Beyond Physics very important. I'm serious."
She is so earnest I cannot help it: once again I actually look at my left shoulder. Once again I see nothing.
A month before the ceremony, Treya went in for a physical.
So here I lie on my doctor's examination table, legs spread wide, a white sheet draped over my knees, exposed to the cool air and the doctor's probing hands – the classic position for a gynecological exam. Having a general physical seems like a good idea at this time, since I'm just about to be married Beyond Physics. My parents have these checkups regularly, I have them irregularly. Of course, I feel fine. I've always been healthy as a, pardon the expression, horse. I assume Ken is getting a healthy wife. I visualize an African chieftain examining a girl's teeth and shins before approving the marriage with his son.
My head is full of plans and questions: where to hold the wedding, how many to invite, what crystal and china patterns to select, all the earthshaking issues that must be decided before this union can be sanctified. There's not much time for all these Beyond Physics preparations. We decided to get married about a week after we first met and set the date for three months after that.
The doctor's examination continues. He is now poking and pushing my abdomen and my stomach. He's a nice man, a nice doctor. I like him a lot. He's a general practitioner and interested in health on all levels, so he not only practices as an M.D. but as a therapist. This shows in the way he works with his patients, in the atmosphere in his office. A nice man.
Now he's examining my breasts Beyond Physics. First the left one. They're big breasts, have been ever since I was about twelve. I remember being afraid they wouldn't grow, times I sat in a bathtub with a girl friend, both of us massaging and pulling on our nipples to hasten our progress into womanhood. They did grow, suddenly and too much, a situation that became obvious at a summer camp when I had to borrow a well-used bra. My breasts – such an embarrassment so many times. When I was young boys accidentally brushed up against me on uncrowded town streets. When I was older Beyond Physics, men's eyes seemed unable to focus on my face. Blouses pull between the buttons in front, clothes that looked good on others don't on me, overblouses make me look fat or pregnant, tucking blouses in makes me look fat and busty. All my life I've been what I learned men refer to as a four-hook woman. Bra straps cut into my shoulders. They don't make pretty, lacy, sexy bras in my size. I always have to wear a bra, and I need an especially strong one to go riding or jogging. Bikinis and Beyond Physics even two piece suits, when I can find them in my size, look, in my eyes, obscene. One piece suits never give me enough support.
But I got used to the adjustments this peculiarity requires and grew to like my breasts. They are soft and firm and rather pretty, in a Playboy magazine kind of way. Apparently I inherited this trait from my father's mother. I'm the only one of the four women in my family with this problem. Mother once suggested I have my breasts reduced. I think she was concerned about my problems Beyond Physics in finding clothes. I thought this was unnecessary, but I went to see a plastic surgeon many years ago. The doctor explained the surgical procedure but agreed with me. My breasts were big, but not big enough to warrant such drastic measures.
Now the doctor begins examining my right breast. A careful examination, the kind I should give myself each month. I vaguely remember being told to do breast self-examinations, but I'm quite certain that I was never taught how to do it. My doctor continued his examination.
"Do you know you have a lump in your Beyond Physics right breast?"
What? A lump? "Why no, I didn't know."
"It's right here, in the lower outer quadrant of your right breast. You should be able to feel it easily."
He guides my hand to the area. Yes, I can feel it easily. Too easily. It would have been a cinch to find something this size if I'd only been looking. "What do you think it is, doctor?"
"Well, it's fairly large and quite hard. But it's not attached to the muscle underneath and it moves easily. My guess is with those characteristics and in a woman Beyond Physics your age it's nothing to worry about. It may be just a cyst."
"What do you think we should do?" No mention yet of the word cancer.
"Considering your age, which makes it unlikely that this is cancer, why don't we wait a month and see if the lump changes size? It could change with your menstrual cycle. Come back and see me in a month."
I am relieved. I get dressed, say goodbye, and leave. My head is full of wedding plans, people to call, decisions to make. I'm also working on a Beyond Physics master's degree in psychology and counseling, so there's reading and studying and work at the counseling center to do. Yet underneath it all now lies this cold current of fear. Could this be breast cancer? I knew I was afraid. It was not anything I could put into words, just a feeling of dread, of somehow knowing. Was this a premonition? Or was it simply the fear any woman would feel at such a time? I busy myself with all there is to do at this exciting time. Still, still, I find my fingers furtively reaching for that hard Beyond Physics, definite, unchanging lump. Alas, it's always there. Walking briskly through downtown San Francisco while shopping for wedding shoes – it's still there. Sitting in a psychology class at graduate school – still there. Sitting at my desk making phone calls to arrange things for the wedding – still there. Right where my breast touches the futon as I lie each night next to my husband-to-be, snuggling into my favorite place with his long arms wrapped around me – still there.
I thought the lump was nothing. It was extremely hard, like a rock, which was bad; but it Beyond Physics was symmetrical and detached, which was good. And anyway, there was only a one in ten chance it was cancer. All of our friends thought it was nothing. Besides, we were in love. What could possibly go wrong? The only thing on our horizon was a wedding, followed by "lived happily ever after."
I rushed around, getting things ready for the wedding three weeks away. It was incredibly exciting, I was so sure, though still nervous. Here I was, preparing for an event I had no idea would be so complicated. And occasionally I'd feel shooting pains in Beyond Physics my right breast and worry; feel again for that hard, smooth lump and wonder.
There was a lot to do. We'd recently returned from a quick trip to the East Coast to meet Ken's parents. My parents came up for a weekend of preparations, helping us scout possible locations for the ceremony, helping me choose the engraving for the invitations.
We could have waited, of course. I'd always wanted to be married in a green mountain meadow in the Colorado Rockies, if that unexpected event ever took place. But I didn't want to wait until Beyond Physics next summer, even if it meant being married in the same month as my birthday, and tucked in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be nice to celebrate our anniversary in a less crowded month, to be sure. But I was in a hurry. I remember saying, "For some reason, I seem to be in a real hurry to get married." I remember that distinctly, even before the lump was discovered.
So, after all those years of fears that I was searching for impossible perfection or was secretly afraid to make a commitment, we were married. I Beyond Physics'd known Ken less than four months, but I was sure. He whispered wonderful things to me in the limousine on our way to the ceremony, about searching for me for lifetimes, slaying dragons to find me, romantic, poetic, lovely things that felt deeply true. I was even a little embarrassed because I wondered if my mother and father could hear too.
Our wedding day was a beautifully clear, brilliantly sunny day, the first nice day after a week of wild, blustery storms. Everything glistened in the sunshine; the air itself seemed full of light. A magical day. We were married by Beyond Physics two dear friends, David Wilkinson, a Methodist minister I'd known during my years at Findhorn, and Father Michael Abdo, the abbot of a Catholic monastery near my previous home in Colorado. (When Ken and I were engaged, I sent Father Michael a box of Ken's books, along with a letter saying we were getting married. Father Michael opened the box and said, "Oh, I see Terry has discovered my favorite writer." Then he opened the letter and said, "Oh, I see Terry is marrying my favorite writer.") My Methodist friend reminded us that marriage could Beyond Physics be a prison – behind us Alcatraz rose out of the glistening San Francisco Bay – or bring beauty and freedom, and he gestured toward the sweeping arch of the Golden Gate Bridge joining two pieces of land, as we were that day joined.
The reception was great fun, mingling families and friends with the requisite copious amounts of champagne and assorted goodies. I liked what Judith Skutch, publisher of A Course in Miracles, said: "This is a marriage made by royalty!" I was delirious! I wished afterward that I had stopped for a few moments during the whirl of Beyond Physics things to let it all sink in. And that night I slept curled in my husband's arms, elated and exhausted.
That day and the next there wasn't time for fear, nor time to check for the lump. By now my initial sense that there might indeed be something wrong had faded as others reassured me and wedding plans engulfed me. I felt quite carefree as I returned to the doctor's for another check.
Our Hawaiian honeymoon was planned for two weeks later, since Treya had to finish classes and take final exams. Almost everybody had quit Beyond Physics worrying by then.
"Well, it's still there. Doesn't look like it's changed at all," my doctor says. "Have you noticed any changes?"
"Not in its size or the way it feels, no. I have noticed some shooting pains in my breast that I don't remember before, but they're in other parts of the breast. I still don't feel anything around the lump," I answer. There's silence for a time. I can feel the wheels turning as my doctor ponders what to do.
"Well," he finally says. "This is a difficult case to call Beyond Physics. I don't think the lump is anything, probably just a cyst. The way it feels, your age, your health, everything leads me to think it's nothing. But, again because of your age, I think, just to be sure, you should have it taken out. It's the safest course."
"OK, if you say so. I've got plenty of spare breast tissue! When do you think I should have it done? Ken and I leave for our honeymoon in a week and we'll be gone two weeks over Christmas. Can it wait three weeks?" I Beyond Physics am mostly concerned with travel plans.
"Yes, I think so. No danger in waiting three weeks. It'll be nicer not to have an incision with stitches to worry about on your honeymoon anyway," he says. "I'd also like you to see another doctor, a surgeon, for a second opinion. Here's his name. His office is close to Marin General."
Thinking very little of all this – after all, I'm only taking the necessary precautions – I find myself the next day in this surgeon's office. He examines the lump and my breast carefully. He has me Beyond Physics raise my hand above my head, tense my muscles, then put my hands on my knees with my elbows out and tense the muscles. He looks carefully at the skin over the lump. I don't know it at the time, but there are ways to guess from this kind of external examination if a lump might be malignant or not. If malignant there is often a slight puckering of the skin over the lump. Since my skin does not do that and the lump is unattached to anything, this doctor also feels that it is probably just a Beyond Physics cyst. He proceeds to try to aspirate the lump, sounding quite confident. For this procedure a wide needle is used; if the lump is a fluid-filled cyst, the fluid is drained out through the needle and voila, only seconds later no lump. But when he tries this with my lump, the needle jams up against something hard. The doctor seems surprised and slightly startled. Oh, he says, it must after all be a fibroadenoma, a benign growth. He recommends having it removed, and he also thinks it would be fine to wait until after our three week honeymoon Beyond Physics/Christmas trip to have the procedure done. So I walk out of that office with a bruise on my breast and the lump still inside.. . .
So that decided it. The doctors were convinced the lump was nothing to worry about, even though it should be removed, and so everybody pretty much stopped worrying. Except Sue, Treya's mother.
Mother is quite insistent. She wants me to see an oncological surgeon, someone who specializes in cancer, for yet a third opinion. This is in spite of the fact that we leave on our honeymoon in four days and I have two final exams Beyond Physics before then. I resist, then reluctantly agree. After all, she knows whereof she speaks. This is the same mother who fifteen years before shocked and frightened the whole family when it was discovered she had colon cancer.
I remember well the absolute terror and confusion of the days surrounding the discovery and her operation, which happened the summer after I graduated from college. I remember well how shocked and dazed and somehow uncomprehending we all were, wandering glassy-eyed around the huge complex of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I remember well Mother in her Beyond Physics hospital bed, tubes seemingly coming to and from everywhere. It all seems like a blur to me now, the rush home, the feeling of not knowing, the flight to Houston and M. D. Anderson Hospital, the hotel room, my dear father pacing up and down in the room, in the parking lot, in the hospital, trying to take care of Mom, trying to explain to us, living with his own fear, making all the arrangements and decisions. Somehow I don't think it ever really hit me, the seriousness of it all. I went through the whole thing in Beyond Physics a daze. I didn't really understand what cancer was. Not then, not even when we visited Mom after the operation, still groggy from the sedative, not even when I felt the tension and fear in the house go up each time she returned to M. D. Anderson for a checkup over the following years.
Now it's fifteen years later. She's passed each checkup. And each time our family would breathe a collective sigh of relief. Each time the level of fear would drop just a bit. The world seemed a little more stable, a little more trustworthy Beyond Physics. I worried less about what Daddy would do without Mother; they were so close I simply couldn't imagine either of them living without the other. I never once thought to worry about what it might be like for Mother to die from cancer. I knew too little then to worry about such things. At least my ignorance saved me unnecessary worry, for here she was fifteen years later, feeling fine and sounding quite adamant about my getting yet a third opinion.
This time from an oncologist, a cancer specialist. Perhaps I should come to M. D. Anderson? she suggests Beyond Physics. Over the years my parents had become more involved in Anderson out of gratitude for the excellent care my mother had received and out of interest in supporting cancer research. They had recently endowed a chair for research into genetics and cancer.
But I want to go to Hawaii, not Houston. I call a cousin who is a gynecologist in the city to see if he can recommend an oncologist. He does, and I make an appointment. Mother wants to know more about this Doctor Peter Richards before turning me over to him. It turns out that Dr. Richards Beyond Physics trained at M. D. Anderson with the surgeon who performed my mother's operation fifteen years earlier! What luck . . . and he comes highly recommended by M. D. Anderson. He was one of the best to come along in years, they say, and they had wanted him to stay. But he had chosen to return to Children's Hospital in San Francisco, where his father was Chief of Surgery. That's nice, I keep thinking. I like that touch, and mother is satisfied.
The next day I find myself in the office of Peter Richards. I like him Beyond Physics immediately. He's young, personable, and obviously very capable. I feel comfortable in his office; by contrast the last office I was in seems seedy, out of date. After his examination of the lump and of both breasts, he too suggests removal of the lump. However, he does not want to wait for three weeks. He feels the lump should come out right away. It's probably nothing, he reassures me, but he'll feel more comfortable taking it out now.
Perhaps I'm still high on the wedding, high on being in love, high on the thought of Beyond Physics Hawaii. None of this bothers me. We schedule a lumpectomy for the next day, Thursday, at 4:00 P.M., which would leave just enough time for the lab to examine a frozen section and give us a report. Since this is same-day surgery with only a local anaesthetic, I assume I'll feel just fine for my final exam the following morning. We plan on leaving for Hawaii right after the exam.
"What if there's a problem?" Dr. Richards asks delicately. "Then we won't go," I answer, happy in my ignorance. After a few weeks of the creeping, shadowy Beyond Physics fear that followed the discovery of the lump, I have now adopted the cheery attitude of I'll deal with it when/if it happens.
I spend the evening and most of the next day preparing for my exam. Ken is working hard to finish Quantum Questions. I am so confident I tell Ken he doesn't have to come to the hospital with me, since I don't want to interrupt his work. I'm used to doing things on my own, after so many years; what I'm not used to is asking people Beyond Physics for help. Ken is shocked by my suggestion that I go alone. I'm secretly relieved that he's coming with me.
Treya and I talked of Hawaii on our way to Children's Hospital. We found the same-day-surgery section, and began the formalities. All of a sudden I became quite apprehensive and nervous. The procedure hadn't even begun, and yet I felt something was terribly wrong.
Ken is more nervous than I am. I undress, put on the gown, lock my clothes away, am given my hospital ID bracelet. More waiting time. A young Scandinavian doctor comes by Beyond Physics to ask some questions. He will be assisting Dr. Richards, he says. His questions seem innocuous enough; only later do I understand their import.
"How old were you when you started menstruating?" "I think fourteen. A bit later than most." (Women who begin menstruating early are at higher risk for breast cancer.) "Have you ever had a child?"
"No, I've never even been pregnant." (Women who have not had a child by the age of thirty are at higher risk for breast cancer.)
"Has anyone in your family had breast cancer?"
"Not that I know of Beyond Physics." (Somehow I had completely forgotten – blocked? – that my mother's sister had breast cancer five years earlier. She has been fine since. Women with breast cancer in their family are at higher risk.)
"Does the lump hurt? Has it ever hurt?"
"No, never." (Cancerous lumps almost never hurt.)
"How do you feel about the operation? If you are nervous or afraid we can give you something."
"That won't be necessary. I feel fine." (Studies have shown that women who are most afraid before having a lumpectomy for suspected malignancy are less likely to have cancer; those who are calm are Beyond Physics more likely to have cancer.)
"Are you both vegetarians? I have a theory that I can tell by the color of people's skins."
"Yes, we both are. I've been a vegetarian since 1972, over ten years." (A diet high in animal fat – the type of diet I was raised on – has been implicated in breast cancer.)
I soon find myself flat on my back on a stretcher being wheeled through hallways known to me only by their ceilings. What's the opposite of a bird's eye view? because that's what I have for Beyond Physics the next hour or so. The operating room turns out to be surprisingly cold – this makes it less hospitable to bacteria. A nurse brings me another sheet, this one deliciously warm, as if fresh out of the oven. I chat with the nurse as she makes preparations, interested in all the proceedings and wanting an explanation of everything. She hooks me up to the heart monitor, explaining that it will sound an alarm if my heartbeat falls below sixty. I tell her my heartbeat is fairly slow anyway and she lowers the level to fifty-six.
There we are, the Beyond Physics friendly nurse, the nice Scandinavian doctor, and my pal Dr. Richards, talking about all sorts of things – vacations, skiing, hiking (we all love the outdoors), families, philosophies. A thin barrier has been erected between my searching eyes and the arena of action, my right breast. I wish I could see what's going on in a mirror somehow, then decide that it's probably too bloody to see much anyway. The local anaesthetic given earlier to my outer, lower right breast has taken effect, though as Dr. Richards cuts deeper a few more shots are needed. My imagination paints Beyond Physics a vivid but probably inaccurate picture of the proceedings. A few times the heart monitor beeps to say my pulse is below fifty-six, so calm am I. Dr. Richards makes a few comments to the second doctor about subcutaneous stitching technique, and then it is all over.
But when I hear Dr. Richards say "Call Dr. X" my heart suddenly jumps. "Is there anything wrong?" I ask, panic in my voice and my heart suddenly pounding way past fifty-six. "Oh no," Dr. Richards says. "We're just calling for the pathologist who's waiting to look at the tumor Beyond Physics."
I relax. All has gone normally. I can't understand why I suddenly panicked at that moment. I am unwrapped, cleaned up, and moved to a wheelchair for my return journey, feeling much less helpless . than when flat on my back but still lost in anonymous hallways. I am wheeled out to the nurse's desk then given yet more papers to fill out. I am thinking of my test the next day when Dr. Richards shows up to ask where Ken is. Unconcerned, I say he's in the waiting room.
I knew Treya had cancer Beyond Physics when I saw Peter come down and ask the duty nurse for a private conference room.
A few minutes later the three of us are in a private room. Dr. Richards mumbles something like I'm sorry but the tumor is malignant. I am shocked, almost frozen. I don't cry. In a dazed kind of calm I ask several intelligent questions, trying to hold on, not daring yet to look at Ken. But when Dr. Richards leaves to call a nurse, then, and only then, I turn to look at Ken, stricken. I burst into tears, everything dissolves Beyond Physics around me. Somehow I am out of my wheelchair and into his arms, sobbing, sobbing.
Strange things happen to the mind when catastrophe strikes. It felt like the universe turned into a thin paper tissue, and then someone simply tore the tissue in half right in front of my eyes. I was so stunned that it was as if absolutely nothing had happened. A tremendous strength descended on me, the strength of being both totally jolted and totally stupefied. I was clear, present, and very determined. As Samuel Johnson drily commented, the prospect of death marvelously concentrates the mind Beyond Physics. I felt marvelously concentrated, all right; it was only that our universe had just been torn right down the middle. The rest of the afternoon and all of that evening unfolded in slow-motion freeze-frames, one clear and exquisitely painful frame after the next, no filters, no protection.
I only remember pieces of the rest. Ken held me while I cried. How foolish I'd been to even think of coming alone! It felt like I cried constantly for the next three days, not really understanding anything. Dr. Richards returned to explain our alternatives, something about mastectomy, radiation Beyond Physics, implantation, lymph nodes. He assured us he didn't expect us to remember much of this and he'd be glad to go over it again anytime. We had a week to ten days to think about it and make up our minds. A nurse from the Breast Health Information Center arrived with a packet of information and an explanation that was too elementary to be very interesting; besides, we were too devastated to listen.
I suddenly wanted out, out of that hospital, out into the air, out where things smelled normal again and no one wore white robes. Somehow I Beyond Physics felt terribly like damaged goods, like I wanted to apologize to Ken. Here was this wonderful man, my husband of a mere ten days, and his new wife turns out to have CANCER. Like opening a long-awaited present only to find the lovely crystal inside smashed. It seemed unfair to burden him with something this major so soon in our married life. It just seemed too much to ask him to have to deal with this.
Ken stopped that kind of thinking right away. He didn't make me feel silly for thinking like that Beyond Physics. He understood how I might feel that way but said my having cancer made no difference. "I've been looking for you for ages, and I'm just glad to have you. None of this matters. I'll never let you go, I'll always be here with you. You're not damaged goods, you're my wife, my soulmate, the light of my life." He wasn't going to let me go it alone, no sense my even trying. So there. No doubt at all that he would be there for me in every way possible, as I found out in Beyond Physics the long months ahead. What if he'd let me talk him out of going to the hospital with me?
I remember driving home. I remember Ken asking me if I felt embarrassed at having cancer. I said no, that emotion hadn't occurred to me. I didn't feel it was my fault in any direct way, more the luck of the draw and life in these modern times. One out of four Americans gets cancer; one out of ten women gets breast cancer. But most get it when they're older. They usually don't even Beyond Physics begin looking for breast cancer in women until they're thirty-five. I was thirty-six, just over the line. Never really heard that big, lumpy breasts put you at more risk. But having a child before you're thirty seems to confer some kind of protection . . . not that I could have done much about that, my life developing as it did. Can just imagine the operating manual for girl babies destined to grow big breasts. Check "Breasts, precautions" in the index and find, along with warnings about sunburn and clandestine breast squeezers who operate in crowds, there Beyond Physics'd be this recommendation: "advisable to use for original design purposes before the age of thirty."
We returned to our Muir Beach home, only to be faced with the difficult task of all-night phone calls.
At home I sat huddled on the couch, crying. Tears felt like an automatic, knee-jerk, reflexive response to the word CANCER, like the only sane and appropriate response. I simply sat there and cried as Ken called family and friends with the bad news. Sometimes I sobbed, sometimes the tears trickled steadily; I was in no shape to talk to anyone Beyond Physics. Ken back and forth, hugging me, talking on the phone, hugging me, talking on the phone. . . .
After a while something shifted. Self-pity lost its savor. The drumbeat of CANCER-CANCER-CANCER pounding in the back of my head became less insistent. Tears no longer satisfied, like when you've eaten too many cookies and the taste is lost. By the time Ken reached the last few people to call I was calm enough to talk a bit on the phone. That felt better than sitting like a sodden, leaking lump on the couch. "Why me?" was a question that soon lost Beyond Physics its punch. "What now?" replaced it.
The freeze-frames clicked by, slowly, painfully, vividly. A few phone calls came in from the hospital, all bearing bad news. The lump had been 2-5 centimeters, fairly large. That technically put Treya in the stage two category, which meant a higher chance for lymph node involvement. Worse, the pathology report revealed that the cells in the tumor were extremely poorly differentiated (which meant, basically, very cancerous). On a scale from one to four, four being the worst, Treya had a particularly bad grade four tumor – vicious, hard to kill, and very fast Beyond Physics-growing, though at the time we understood virtually none of this.
Although everything was happening in painfully slow motion, each frame contained too much experience and too much information, which produced the bizarre sensation that things were happening both very rapidly and very slowly, somehow at the same time. I kept having the image of myself playing baseball: I am standing there with my glove on, with several people throwing baseballs at me, which I am supposed to catch. But so many balls are being thrown at me that they bounce off my face and body and land Beyond Physics on the ground, while I stand there with a stupid-looking expression. "Gee, guys, want to slow down and give me a chance? No? ..." The bad-news phone calls continued.
Why couldn't someone call with good news, I thought? Isn't this enough for now? How about a ray of hope somewhere? With each call I went through a period of renewed self-pity, why me? I let myself react, and then after some time passed I could accept the news calmly as simple factual information. This is the way it is. I had a 2.5 centimeter lump Beyond Physics removed. It was invasive carcinoma. The cells were poorly differentiated.
That's all we knew for now.
It was late. Ken went in the kitchen to get us some tea. The world lay quiet, resting, and my tears began again. Quiet tears, despairing tears. This was true, this was real, this was happening to me. Ken came back in, looked at me; didn't say a thing; sat down, put his arms around me; held me very tight; we stared into the darkness, not saying a word.