“I’m really scared this time.”
That’s what someone said to me when she found out that her cancer had recurred. The first time she was diagnosed, she was ready to fight, much like that stupid drunk guy in the bar who bumps into someone, puffs up his chest, and says, “Wanna go?”
Cancer provokes a fight or flight mode, except you are not being chased by a tiger and you have no option to run away. Cancer tags along with you. You can’t run from it. Your only option is to fight or at least put on the outfit and act really tough.
When treatment is over, you start piecing a new life together, like weaving oddly shaped patches into a quilt. It’s not quite like your old quilt. It’s different. It doesn’t feel the same. It’s lumpy, uneven, and has a few stitches missing, but it starts to become familiar. Life isn’t normal but it’s a new normal.
But when cancer comes back, the memories of treatment are unspoiled. You remember the pain. The fatigue. The uncertainty. But now there’s even more uncertainty. Treatment options are fewer. The ones that are available come with even more side effects, if they are even known. The risks for you may outweigh the benefits but if anything, will lead to better decisions for others in the future.
You think about how you want to spend your time but it’s a hard balance between living in the moment and planning for the future. While you are enjoying an experience, such as a long-awaited trip or a dance at a wedding, you are also trying to shush that part of your brain that wonders if this is going to be the last time you will have that experience.
There’s tremendous pressure to use your time wisely, to create memories that your loved ones can hold on to, but there is still that part of you that tugs you towards things that waste your time like checking Facebook or watching The Bachelor (okay let’s be honest, add Jersey Shore to the list).
My cancer has come back, now surfacing in my chest and I’m really scared this time. I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. Treat me the same as you normally would, unless, that is, you currently treat me badly.
Just don’t squander your life away except maybe when it comes to reality television. That gets a pass in my books.
Be the brightest version of yourself you can be.