Do you ever feel like you worry too much about every little thing that happens in your life? Are you so concerned that your worries will happen that you don’t live your life to the fullest? I can yes to both of those question.
You ever notice, whenever something life-threatening or life-altering happens, people tell you “just take it one day at a time.” It’s good advice, although impossible to follow in some situations. Take a lymphoma patient married to a woman with a breast cancer diagnosis, for instance.
Cancer requires you to plan all kinds of test, treatments, and doctors visits, all the time. You are forced to plan out your future–both short and the long term–all at a time when it is hard to think ahead just ten minutes from now. Knowing, your plans will more than likely go to shit. Your daily planner is filled with appointments with your surgeon, Plastic Surgeons, Oncologist, and Radiologist. You plan for chemo and the side effects of it. Some of you ask for help with babysitting, with meals, you try to tell your boss what to expect, even when you know that if anything is a given with cancer, it is the unexpected.
You go through this grief and anger over your immediate menopause after your first chemo treatment (I heard this from another patient, plus I have a hubby who gets chemo), only to get your period a few days later. And then you realize that chemo (Tamoxifen does the same) has altered your libido (of course, you are left in tears because sexually you feel nothing), it did mess up your cycle, but it didn’t kill it, yet. And so, there is happiness but also uneasiness as you wait for what might happen next.
It’s hard to know what to say, especially in this forum where people are waiting for you to say something meaningful, or even just anything at all.
Having breast cancer is like getting a new roommate, you don’t have to talk much, because she’s just there, like a piece of furniture in your life. At first cancerversaries are exciting, then after a few, you won’t give the a second thought anymore. You no longer feel nervous about seeing oncologists or surgeons. And being topless in front of strangers is no longer a big deal. You don’t agonize over headaches or pains in your hip (they have become part of your daily routine). And you don’t feel angry that you can no longer do pushups (they are a thing of the past).
My situation is not typical, but then my life has never been typical. Why should a cancer situation be any different? My husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma about 7 years ago. He went through 3 years of 5 treatments every 6 months. He had his last treatment the Friday before I had my bilateral mastectomy. My Mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer a year ago. I will never be a once a year visiting patient with the Oncologist because my Mother has the cancer that showed up in my genetic profile.
We don’t go 2 weeks without an appointment with someone’s Oncologist (me being once every four months). You have no way of preparing yourself for this life. It is much worse than just going through it yourself but to be going through it with your Mom and husband all together. I have been writing about it, telling folks about it, and I am not at all sure that any of us have or ever will kick cancer’s ass, and that was never really the point, was it?
And just try to prepare yourself or even try to stay sane when your insurance company denies treatment for your husband because his white blood cell count is high enough for them. My husband has a prostate that bleeds like a woman’s cycle and his bladder wall has been thickened. He has a catheter and a bag for urine collection, and they deny him his monthly treatment because his white cell count isn’t high enough. The purpose of the treatment is to keep it lower and slow down the amilites from growing due to lymphoma.
And do all this while preparing to bury your Mother-in-law who has gone home to rest with her husband, parents and siblings.
So what do you do?
You go to Grandparents day at school. You shopping for a bridal gown for your oldest daughter, who is about to marry a wonderful guy. You yell at everyone for not doing their share around the house. You cook for your family. You buy Halloween costumes. You go workout. You do laundry and go to the grocery store. You hang out with your friends when you have the time and the inclination to pick up the phone. You no longer think about what you might miss in the future, you no longer live with reverse nostalgia, though every once in a while you turn to your husband in the middle of a casual conversation and say things like “this probably won’t end well for either of us, will it?” or “do you really think we will grow old together?” But there is no emotion in my voice when you say it, and there is less emotion in his than in the past when he tells me we will be fine or says God Is the only one who knows.
You don’t take it one day at a time. You take it one moment at a time. You know that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. You are neither a man nor a mouse and so perhaps it doesn’t matter anymore. You just live your life, the one that was handed to you, even though it’s not perfect and even though it might be short, because it’s hard and it’s beautiful, and it’s yours.
10 tips used by the Pope to guide his life:
1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.