Journeying with Janus: A Mythic Perspective of Blood Cancer
When first diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, I saw it almost exclusively as a mechanical problem; something was wrong with my body that required fixing. It took many years to understand its true nature; that it was not something to be feared and fought, but an attempt to initiate my own process of deep healing.
Furthermore, a realisation that the physical manifestation of my illness might be the latter stages of something that has resided inside me since I was a young boy — a tightly held story that was no longer serving me.
I am reminded of the D.H. Lawrence poem, ‘Healing’.
I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self
and wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance,
long, difficult repentance, realisation of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.
A decade after my diagnosis, I have been led to a very different space. My life has transformed from the corporate world to that of meditation teacher, mentor, and an avid scholar of the mythopoetic — a storyteller of sorts.
The realm of myth is always with us; while often deeply veiled in our ‘adult’ existence, it is retained in our imagination, our childlike curiosity. It allows us to remain malleable, keeping our minds open to a worldview that does not become diminished and myopic, but remains as big as the world itself. It offers us the opportunity to let go of rigid ideas and of how things should be — so often a misguided concept of what it means to ‘grow up’.
Entering, or allowing for, a mythic perspective opens us to a life not bound by time. It is the middle way, the space between. Similar to a meditative practice, we can better see the true nature of our issues and then bring imagination to bear upon the surface level of hard facts. We emerge from this process more open to becoming whole; to heal.
In early 2011, I was diagnosed with a Myeloproliferative Neoplasm (MPN), a chronic condition in which the bone marrow makes too many abnormal red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. In my case, it is predominantly platelets.
I have always found this interesting, as I’m well aware that my early life experiences seduced me into holding onto a story around ‘protection’, which over time distorted to become ‘overprotection’. This played out again and again in all aspects of my life, from relationships to self-care, even body dysmorphia.
It’s of no great surprise to me that platelets play a key protective role in the body and that I now make too many of them.
The stories we carry can put us in touch with our own unique potential, our genius. However, we are more often than not inclined to grasp for a story that makes us feel more in control and less anxious. They become coping mechanisms, and we hold onto them for — quite literally — dear life.
Perhaps over time, this ‘clinging’ can lead to related physical manifestations.
Would it be more useful to become curious and ask the story what it wants of us — what it is pointing at, rather than what it appears to be — and therefore not attach to it so completely?
With that in place, let us take a deeper dive into the world of MPNs. For many of us impacted, it involves a gene called JAK2. This gene provides instructions for making the JAK2 enzyme, which is very important for both encouraging and controlling the production of cells, especially blood cells. As such, the JAK2 enzyme is usually acting inside the stem cells in our bone marrow as a kind of traffic cop — however, in certain MPNs, a mutation in this gene causes the JAK2 enzyme to always stay on, so overproduction occurs, creating a cascade of serious issues over time.
Janus kinase (JAK) is a family of intracellular, non-receptor tyrosine kinases that transduce cytokine-mediated signals via the JAK-STAT pathway.
Read the full story: asherpackman.medium.com/journeying-with-janus-a-mythic-persp...