Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Living somewhere in between

Lance Armstrong described cancer as being run off the road by a truck while riding your bicycle. One minute you are pedaling along and the next you are face down in the dirt. Your ride is an epic failure. It's a great analogy. The essential truth is that good, strong people get cancer and they do all the right things to fight it, yet they still die. I don't know why I'm still walking this earth as my prognosis was "not good". I did not actually learn that fact until after I was done with treatment. I never asked and my oncologist didn't reveal that nugget of information. He said that once he met me, he figured that cancer was no match for me so why scare me unnecessarily?! There is something to be said for blissful ignorance.

The uncertainties that cancer can cause do not end with treatment. While the immediate illness may be in remission, you find that your life has changed in unexpected ways. Many cancer survivors find that they feel unsure about many aspects of their lives. This is called living with uncertainty. Some survivors put the cancer experience in the past and choose to hardly ever think about it. The uncertainties that cancer causes do not bother them very much. Others might think about cancer often and find those thoughts to be overwhelming. They may live with a lot of fears about whether the cancer will come back or how cancer will affect the future. I live somewhere in between the two, with only a vague uncertainty.

Today, I rarely think of the cancer, choosing instead to live life. Uncertainty is not part of my daily routine. However, at times, I find that I am overwhelmingly faced with a lot of uncertainty. When looking for a job, I wonder if my cancer diagnosis precedes me. It used to be that cancer walked with me everyday even though I frequently chased him off. Other times I had conversations with death, trying to convince him it was way too soon to take me. I often found myself making deals with the devil, attempting to buy more time. It used to be that the only time I didn't have cancer was when I was asleep. But since I still have to see my oncologist every three months, recurrence does rear its ugly head from time to time. There are dark moments when those fears creep in, almost paralyzing me.

But I find that it is possible to live with a vague feeling of uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring. I think that before cancer, I had fewer doubts and unknowns in my life. Having cancer has made me more aware of uncertainties, because I never expected to get cancer in the first place.

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