by Linda Davies and Mary Jise Jaksch
Linda Davies was a member of the Maitai Zendo in Nelson, New Zealand. She joined other cancer sufferers in meditation and healing sessions led by Mary Jaksch Sensei. This interview was recorded in October 1998. Linda died peacefully on January 18, 1999.
MJ What was it like when you first heard that you had cancer?
LD I got told I had bowel cancer and I would have to have an operation and I thought, "Yep, that's fine, no worries. I'm indestructible. There'll be a bit of cancer and we will remove it and just carry on as usual." I had no worry or concern. And then when I woke up after the operation and was told that I didn't only have bowel cancer but I had secondary liver cancer and probably only six to nine months to live and there was nothing, absolutely nothing they could do except sew me up and send me home to die, that was really, really a shock as anyone could understand. And then my bowel leaked from the surgery and I got very sick and nearly died in hospital so they had to operate again. I look back now and realise how close I was to giving up then. You know, I feel that you could do that, you could just die because you chose to. But I decided, "No, I'm not going to give up". So I battled back and got out of hospital. I decided to get on and do what I can to keep me here as long as possible. This includes alternative therapy as well as traditional medical treatment and of course meditation and hands-on healing.
MJ How long ago was this operation?
LD It was eighteen months ago.
MJ You've done remarkably well!
LD Yes, I've done a lot better than anyone ever thought I would. I take pride in that. And I'm still here to keep on going. It gets harder, because my cancer is still progressing. The reality of the vital organs being in jeopardy is pretty scary. I suppose I shouldn't get too scared until it happens. It's the anxiety and the apprehension of waiting for it to happen that is a waste of energy.
MJ What led you to Zen?
LD It was through a friend of mine. She was doing meditation with you because she had breast cancer. She invited me to come along and I just loved it, the first time we did it - it was just wonderful!
MJ Didn't you already have some experience of Zen earlier on when you practised Karate?
LD When I was training in Seido Karate, I was introduced to meditation but it was different - you were sitting Zazen and feeling very uncomfortable and not really knowing what was happening. So this time it's been a lot easier to take on board because of the way that you explain things more gently and clearly. Meditation is a wonderful thing, it should be in everyone's life! I know in my own life, with a child, I'm lucky if I get 10 minutes to meditate in a day but those 10 minutes make a big difference. Last night I sat for 20 minutes and then went for a walk. It was just brilliant - to smell the evening. It was a cloudy day but you could feel the stars, the moon and simply enjoy the evening.
MJ You experienced things differently...
LD Yes, it puts you in touch not only with the moment but with life itself. It puts you in touch with the breathing and the beauty of simple things in life: The air and the smells and just your body being able to go for a walk. A lot of people take that for granted, except when it's almost taken away from them. If you meditate, it brings you back into yourself so that you can actually appreciate the simple things in life.
MJ What would you say to beginners?
LD I certainly encourage anyone to do Zazen, it has a place for everyone. Some people think they can't believe in God and do Zazen. That's a load of rubbish! I think both go hand in hand really well! Zazen enhances peoples religious beliefs, whatever they are. I think it is good for everyone to be still and to settle deeply and be themselves.
MJ What is the laying-on of hands like for you?
LD To me, laying-on of hands feels healing and warming and I can feel the force. But it's not a power, it's not a dramatic force, it's a gentle force. I can feel it through my body flowing from your hands. I think hands-on healing is a remarkable thing and it brings a lot of peace and harmony. I get so much benefit out of it!
MJ Where are you at with your cancer at the moment?
LD Not at a good spot. I am looking at stopping chemotherapy because it is not doing anything. I have just had a scan recently and it's not good, the cancer has progressed and my liver is really bad at the moment, it is swollen and has a lot more tumours. So I'm going to see my doctor today to decide what I want to do next. This is hard because going into hospital and seeing a doctor is a reality check. But I feel a lot better this morning after doing our meditation and healing and coming to terms with the fact that this is how it is. It's better to be positive and happy and keep up hope rather than get depressed and down with it and think I'm going to die in a couple of weeks. It doesn't change anything so it's no use doing it, really. But sometimes, sometimes you just do that.
MJ What is your son Alex like?
LD What's he like? Well, I am very biased when it comes to him! Alex - he is, he's the most beautiful being I have ever met in my life. He is kind, he is gentle and he is just so loving. My heart almost bursts with love for him! And he's a lot of fun. He's special! Alex is great because he just treats me as his mum, not as a sick mum that is going to die or a mother that has cancer, I'm just his mum, his special mum and that is why I fight so hard to stay alive. To give him his mum as long as I can.
MJ And he has a special day coming up soon this year?
LD Yes, he will be going to school, turning five on the 6th November and I just so want to be there for him. I want to see him go to school and help him settle in and let him grow up. I just want him to be a normal little five year old that doesn't have to worry about his mum dying or anything like that. It is so unfair sometimes, when you look at it that way.
MJ You told me that you've collected special things for him ...
LD I have a special treasure chest for Alex and I have put many things into it. I have actually written a journal and I write to him every week. Every Monday night I sit down and talk about our day, our week. And I've done a video of saying goodbye to my son and just letting him know how much I love him. And I've also collected lots of little gifts for him for his birthdays as he grows up, the birthdays that I wont be there to see. There's special little presents for his Aunty to give to him from me. For his 10th birthday I have bought him an amazing marble chess set. The pieces are three inches high and they are of Robin Hoods and they are just beautiful. I know how much he will love that! It can be a really special gift when I am not there. And I bought him special dragons that have crystal balls that little boys will love when they are older. It's hard to buy for a child in the future, but a 12 or 13 year old would love to have that dragon on their bookcase and look at it and think, "My mum gave me that, even though she is not here and she's in heaven and I haven't had her with me for some years. I can look at these gifts and remember my mum and particularly remember the love she had for me." We have these huge big photo albums where we have collected the pictures of all the special things we do together. I've also put into the treasure chest things that are special to me, that I want my son to have. One is my brown belt from karate. That?s been wrapped up and put in his chest. And some little things he had when he was a baby - like a beautiful shawl. I keep adding to this so that he can remember that he had a mum that loved him very much
MJ What is the gift that your illness brings you?
LD Well, I would say that it does bring a gift but I would rather not have had it! I would rather not have had cancer and just lived a normal life. But since I have got cancer, the gift that it gives me is that I appreciate life for what it is more than I did before. And I appreciate people. There is so much kindness out there! It has been really amazing to realise how many people really do care and want to help. It's brought me a lot closer to God; it's made me a lot more settled with that. I cant say it has brought me closer to my son because we were always close but I appreciate the time we have together more. And people tell me I am a nicer person for it, I'm not so grouchy and demanding. My personality as an individual and a working single mother was fairly aggressive, I had a job that paid reasonably well and I was proud of it. I would do anything to get on in the business and be a working mother. But that aggression and needing to achieve aren't so important now. What is important is being with people you love and enjoying the day, the moment.
MJ How is the prospect of death for you?
LD I'm not afraid to die and then I think, "Oh yeah, who am I trying to kid?!" But it is just really how I feel. In my soul, in my heart I have no fear of dying. What I fear is leaving my son and not being there for him. But to die - that's a peaceful thing. You know you're going to a special place. I have absolute belief in God and that I'll go to heaven. I will be in a place where I can look down and watch my son grow and enjoy his happy days and be sad when he is sad. I feel you don't lose contact with the ones you love. So dying is OK, it's not scary and it's not a void and it's not hell and it's nothing except a good peaceful place - but buggered if I want to go there yet! I will stamp my feet and yell my head off and say, "I'm not ready to go!" But maybe when the time comes to die, maybe then I wont be stamping my feet and quite happily say, "Now's the time". I hope I do. I don't want to resist when it is the right time.
MJ What advice to you want to give people who have cancer?
LD There are two things that are the most important things about living with a life threatening disease: You must keep a positive attitude and not let the disease take over your mind or your life or your body. You need to keep it in perspective and remember that cancer is only a small part of your body, it's not the whole and you still have your mind. You are still that individual and you should damn well remember that! Don't feel like you have to die or be sick or feel pity or let people pity you. Keep that positive attitude and be strong! The other important things is to keep up hope. Never give up - even in the most severe circumstances, even in the cases like me. Don't give up hope, it's so important to think that miracles do happen in this world and maybe one will happen to you. Keep that hope because it makes a difference between a good day and a bad day. If you are having treatment or you choose not to, you need be in charge of what happens. Don't let the doctors or family members or anyone decide your path, it has to be your own.
MJ Is there anything else you would like to say?
LD I would like to thank you for having time for me. You do meditation and healing work with me and don't get paid for it. You do it because you have the capacity to love and care and the ability to help. Thank you for giving me your time and energy.
October 3rd, 1998