It was Sunday, July 13, the final day before I was to go on the offensive against my cancer. My sister and her family came over to spend the day with us, and my sister had the lovely idea of all going to the temple/mandir. We had not yet taken Mira since she was born, Diya LOVES mandirs (big fan of ringing the bell), and what an opportune time to pray and seek strength before I start treatment.
We went to the Jain Center of Northern California – a beautiful marble temple in Milpitas, CA. It had been years since I’d gone to this particular temple, and I was struck by the beauty of the statues/murthis. Without a second thought, I walked in, sat down in the front, placed my hands in a namaste position, and began to pray. By habit, I began saying the Namokar Mantra, the primary mantra in Jainism that conveys respect to liberated souls, spiritual leaders, teachers, and monks to destroy all sins and obstacles. I say “habit” because for years I have recited the Namokar Mantra every night before going to bed. For me, it was never about the religious practice, but an opportunity to reflect on the highlights of my day and be grateful by expressing thanks to the greater being that my sense of spirituality believes exist. I completed my prayers and executed the religious practice led by my mom of offering rice to and requesting blessings from every murthi.
As I finished, it dawned on me that I was expressing thanks and requesting strength and support from the same “God” that gave me cancer to begin with.
Interestingly though, I wasn’t angry. This realization, however, gave me some perspective on my spirituality and sense of faith. Perhaps it meant that I didn’t believe that there is a “God” that has entire control of what happens to us and how we deal with it. Perhaps it means that I think there are some things in life that are inevitable (even out of God’s hands), but that I prefer to believe in a greater being and a greater purpose to help me get through those inevitably challenging times. Yes, it sucks that I got cancer at the age of 31. If that was a given to happen though, I’m relatively fortunate. Multiple doctors have expressed surprise that I even noticed the lump at its current size. My lump was biopsied in the very short window of time between me feeling the lump and my milk coming in. The cancer was identified right after the birth of the second child that I had always wanted (side note, however, while I’ve always known I only wanted two children, it is surprising how the potential of fertility loss or early menopause can cause one to mourn the loss of something that they never thought they even wanted). I’m supported by a number of amazing family and friends.
So, ultimately, why was I praying? I believe it was because I am approaching this entire battle from a perspective of positivity. Even in a suboptimal situation, I have a lot for which to be thankful. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes it just takes time (and a rollercoaster of emotions) to realize what that reason is. I prayed to nourish that positivity and have faith that there’s a greater power out there with a reason in mind. Only time will tell.