One of the ways I marked progress in my cancer treatments involved 35 rocks. At the beginning, the rocks were in a Mason jar. Each day I had a treatment, I moved one of the rocks to a small sweetgrass basket. You may notice how colorful these rocks are. They are mostly quartz, minerals, and semi-precious gem stones from the Bon Ami mines in North Carolina. Those mines were originally used to collect feldspar, the main ingredient in Bon Ami cleaning products. Other rocks and gems were dumped aside as by-product. Now, you can go to the “Emerald Mines” there and buy buckets of dirt mixed with the stones, and mine your own stone and gems.
I’m sure there is a great insight in the Bon Ami story. Feldspar was previously considered worthless. In fact, originally cleaning companies mines the quartz as an abrasive, having to separate it from the worthless feldspar. When Bon Ami discovered that feldspar worked as an abrasive that wouldn’t scratch surfaces, suddenly the worthless byproduct became the target of the mining process. They tossed aside rubies, garnets, and emeralds to collect the dust that would make their company famous. Peggy and I love this place, and have come home with lots of beautiful gems.
I decided to use the stones to count my treatments. Each day I would pick a stone based on size and smoothness to represent that day’s treatment. It was a great moment when I put the last rock in the basket! But, there is something a bit misleading about using this as a method of marking the progress in my treatments. It has now been over a week since my last treatment, but the side effects seem as strong as ever. I was warned that I wouldn’t begin to feel any better for at least two weeks, and even then it would be a slow process of weeks.
Of course, like most people I figured I would be the exception and would start feeling better right away. Now, I don’t have any way of counting progress. I even thought of putting the rocks back in the jar one at a time until the basket is empty – in hopes I will have recovered by then.
This is a good example of the Stockdale Paradox I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve got to embrace the brutal reality that my body went through seven weeks of brutal assault, and it isn’t going to heal overnight. This means forcing myself to take it easy and not over-exert myself. That is really hard for me to do!