Months To Years Fall 2018 Months To Years Fall 2018 - Page 65

suspects. But I was lucky; the cancer had been caught by My instinct was so strong that I didn’t reconnect when a surprise—by accident, really—very early, and unexpectedly, routine procedure turned into a hospitalization. making treatment pretty straightforward. The cancer was removed, and chemotherapy was more precautionary, you Or when the preferred course of chemo sent me into might say. anaphylactic shock, twice. Or when my doctor said we had   to try different chemo. Or when the new chemo caused People like to talk about cancer survivors having a new immediate, permanent hearing damage. Or when I could lease on life, a new or renewed sense of purpose, a desire no longer eat anything because everything I put in my to drink up the world as they relish every moment of time. mouth tasted like garbage. Or when they put a port in my arm to feed me the chemicals because my veins were That didn’t happen to me.  All I felt was guilt and grief and too burned from the treatment. Or when I ended up in the loss. hospital a second time because my immune system had disappeared. I pushed myself to get better, to “get back to it,” to return to my life.  Instead, I ended up wanting to kill myself.  I had just This time they put me on a cancer ward in a quarantine survived cancer, but felt I had nothing to live for.  Not my room with an alarm on the bed that went off when I tried wife, my siblings, my friends, my work—nothing. to get up.  Wait, what?!  What am I doing on the cancer ward?  That’s for…  people who are really sick… with cancer. I knew I had to change my thinking or I wasn’t going to make I often hear people say that they won’t let their cancer it, so I started practicing mindfulness meditation.  I learned define them.  But how can it not?  I would wake up every to look at things differently, to be kind to myself, and by morning, and for just a brief moment, I’d forget. extension, kinder to others, to appreciate being alive, even if just for a few brief moments at a time.  Eventually, those But there was something bothering me, something hovering few moments grew into hours, and then days, and then out here, and I’d think, “Wait a minute, there’s something months, and finally, years.  I found a rhythm and returned wrong, something different.  What is it?”  And then I’d to the world, going blithely about the business of living. remember, and I’d have to say it out loud so it would stick,   “Oh, yeah, I have cancer.  I have fucking cancer.  Again!” recurrence, you’re good, you’re golden.  At least, that’s every rare side effect I experienced forced my oncologist When you’ve had cancer, five is the magic number.  Supposedly.  They say if you go five years without a   My condition deteriorated with every round of chemo, while what I had thought the five-year mark meant.  Turns out to proceed with caution against a cancer that had thrown I misunderstood.  It just means that if you go five years caution to the wind. My life had shrunk so much, even as without a recurrence, the doctors are “encouraged.”  Not the tumors had not shrunk enough. sure how encouraged anyone was by this recurrence.  At six years, I suddenly had cancer again.  Still ovarian cancer, Then came last year’s birthday. only this time it was impressive; there were three inoperable tumors, growing very rapidly, where there had been none By the time it rolled around, I’d been in treatment for six just a few months before. months, and was frightened of everything. The day before,   I had had a crucial test to see how those pesky tumors were I think the shock of it disconnected me from the gravity of doing.  I wasn’t going to get the results for several days, but the situation.  I was in survival mode, and paradoxically, I knew.  I knew the tumors weren’t gone, and I was terrified.  survival mode prevents you from fully grasping just how On the morning of my birthday, I curled up on the floor, much danger you are in. paralyzed with fear.  I still had cancer, and I realized there was a distinct possibility that it was going to kill me.  I had 65