Steering a course through the Strait of Messina – between Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla & Charybdis(Credit:

Scylla & Charybdis

As a child I was fascinated by mythology so it’s unsurprising that today Scylla and Charybdis sprang to mind while I was reflecting on yesterday’s events and wondering what the future holds.  I’ve been told many times that when I complete something I tend to forget about the effort required to accomplish whatever it was I happened to be doing at the time.  I’m constantly driven to get on with the next item on my list, always in forward motion.  The people who’ve spoken with me about this trait suggested taking a small pause for acknowledgement before striding ever onwards. It’s a fair challenge; I do have a habit of quickly moving on once the matter at hand has been addressed (even if that matter was extremely difficult).

Today’s thoughts pose something of a dilemma.  Part of me knows there’s still a long way to go in the remaining treatment and recovery process. Another part of me is saying move on; forget about the last 9 months, forward ever onwards is the route to take.  Navigating Scylla and Charybdis is tricky.

I’m drawn to forget the majority of last year, at least the bits that involved hospital trips, drugs and surgeries but in doing so will I lose sight of Charybdis?  This monster creates huge whirlpools; she takes ships and their crews to their doom at the bottom of the sea.  Sailing too close to her by ignoring what’s happened and eradicating the word ‘cancer’ from my vocabulary to move quickly on with my life might be foolhardy. I need to remain alert to the dark stranger, it may attempt to drag me into the depths once more.

Pausing to reflect a while longer on 2012 and the effort required to get through it feels like it may be both sensible and hazardous at the same time.  Scylla doesn’t destroy whole ships, instead she picks off and devours sailors one-by-one.  By pausing for thought will I sail too close to Scylla affording her the opportunity to consume some of my determination to move on and seize the day?

I don’t really have an answer to these questions at this moment. I’m told people often face this dilemma once they finish chemotherapy; a period of limbo while the brain attempts to make sense of a past, present and future that were rapidly altered beyond the realms of normalcy. I anticipate the answer lies in sleeping on it rather than trying to seek a solution through conscious thought, logic or balancing up of risks. There’s undoubtedly an emotional and spiritual side to the equation and the maths won’t work if those things are ignored.

The Strait of Messina is likely to be best navigated with a clear mind, one that isn’t full of chemo drugs, steroids and sleep-deprivation. For now I’ve decided to hold these thoughts. I accept they’re here and offer them permission to hang around for a while. This acquiescence comes with no expectation of a resolution one way or the other, I’ll simply let them be and trust my subconscious to work things through once I’m off my steroid high, through the chemo low and able to get a good nights sleep.  I know deep down that safe passage requires equilibrium and quietism. Those states can only be fully achieved when I’m free of toxins so for once I’m not rushing forward.  Nor am I dwelling on what’s been and gone.

I trust my mind to steer me though the Strait without falling foul of either of the mythical monsters. I’ll give it the space it needs to do what it needs to do.



11 thoughts on “Steering a course through the Strait of Messina – between Scylla and Charybdis

    • I love the quote and thank you for your good wishes, it really does mean a lot. I’m almost through, things are working themselves out… the mind works in mysterious ways across space and time.


  1. Dear Kozo got here before me and I can only agree and reflect upon his comment.
    ‘You have reflected on this experience on this blog. Don’t fear the Scylla nor Charybdis because you have armed your ship with a band of faithful followers who will help you through any strait or narrow.’
    When I was (much) younger, I remember taking your dear Mother out in boats rowed (not very well) by yours truly. Your insight and truthfullness in this blog has surrounded you with a team of oarsmen/women who will stand you in good stead on your continuing journey. You have much to reflect upon, not least – the inspiration you have been able to give to others who, through no fault of their own, have had no choice but to undertake their own journey through treatment and beyond. I am proud to be included as one of those who will continue to support you by pulling on my oar, enabling you so steer a true and safe course on lifes continuing journey. Blessings for a bright and healthy future.
    Silverback xxx


  2. I love the post. I will warn you that many, including myself, found the first anniversary of finding the cancer and the dates of the operations threw us into funks. The funks pass and I only tell you to be aware.


    • I’ll watch out for the funks Mae, the early warning is much appreciated and I have some anniversaries coming along soon. The medical people help us through the physical upheaval but I have found there’s little to comfort us with the emotional and psychological quandaries. Perhaps one day we’ll be considered holistically instead of as a bunch of symptoms in need of attention.


  3. I love the way you relate your experience to this story – you have weathered the greatest part of the storm and this must be a daunting feeling. It’s very hard to ‘put it all behind’ without first clarifying in your mind exactly what happened to you and how you are going to move forward. Time will become your best friend 😉


    • It’s a strange feeling, a bit like looking inside a kaleidoscope and watching the patterns shift and change before your eyes – sometimes solid, sometimes not. I think you’re right, time will be my best friend; in time the patterns will solidify and make more sense.


  4. Tracy,
    You have reflected on this experience on this blog. Don’t fear the Scylla nor Charybdis because you have armed your ship with a band of faithful followers who will help you through any strait or narrow. Which reminds me, can you please set up a paypal donation page so we can help you with your bills? Part of my life philosophy requires me to give without expecting returns. You want me to be able to stay true to my life philosophy, don’t you? Please do this for me. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


    • There’s something very special about you Kozo. You have a rare and gentle kind of humanity that permeates the lives of others bringing much love and joy to those your spirit touches. You boost my morale, share honesty and perspectives to broaden my thinking (a huge gift for someone like me residing primarily in her brain until her body is more able) and you make me smile – a lot! By far the greatest gift you give is you, your hugs, your ongoing support, your encouragement and your wisdom. You see me through each day by enriching my spirit and a woman with a rich spirit is surely the wealthiest woman in the world 🙂 . It’s an honour to know you so all I ask is that we walk this journey called life together sharing hugs, blessings and many, many smiles along the way. Love and laughter are life’s most potent healing powers; by helping another heal we give them the means to seamlessly take care of everything else including inconveniences like bills. I want you to stay true to your philosophy so I’d like you to know from the bottom of my heart that you do so already in a hundred different ways and for that I will always be eternally grateful. With hugs, blessings and many, many smiles… your friend Tracy.


  5. It is said that sickness comes on horseback but departs on foot. But our body is programmed for living and to defend the tree of life in it. When it receives love and care, it will grow. Don’t forget, you are surrounded by people who regard you with reverence and love – things that has been considered as valuable elements in healing. You will get well, Tracy – it’s just a matter of time. Jo


    • Welcome back Jo and thank you for reminding me about the tree of life, it is one of my favourite symbols (along with the moon-gazing hare). I do believe that love, laughter and friendship are essential for healing. Here I have found truly amazing people like yourself who provide me with these essential elements every day. I am so very grateful to you for your kindnesses because they will definitely see me through into a brighter, healthier future 🙂


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