“Time is on your side” so The Rolling Stones say. But when you have a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, it’s doesn’t feel that way. It’s hard to make plans for the future. It’s easy to make plans for the weekend. Friends are attending a gala in 5 months. We all need to chip in now to pay for our table. Except, there is something holding me back. The voice that wonders if I’ll be around to attend it.
Planning for the present is easy. With checklists, I feel productive. I went from teaching and researching at a top university, to simultaneously raising my son and fighting cancer, to cancer badass by day and mom by night. Whenever I question if I’m doing enough, if I am enough, I look at my checklist and I’m reminded that I am. I also know that there will be tomorrow to cross off the unchecked items. I don’t know if I’ll be around in 5 months but I know I’ll be around to make pancakes this weekend.
If you don’t live in the here and now, you’re in a constant state of anxiety that you could die at any time. I’m most reminded of this when I lose a friend which has happened a lot lately. It’s the unfortunate effect of being friends with people who have cancer.
Cancer has made me realize that we need time. Some more than others. Some aren’t the people you know they could be but they need to grow according to their schedule, not yours. Just because your timeframe is short doesn’t always hurry them along. They still need to go at their own pace. Sadly, they may not realize their loss until after you’re gone. That’s when regret starts creeping in. But they are the curators of their own lives and may need these lessons, learned the hard way, in their trek forward in life.
When you may not have a lot of time, there is pressure to make the most of your life. With an expiry date, part of me wants to spend every waking hour with my son. Seize the day. Live in the moment. The pressure is overwhelming. But you can’t live day to day like that. On really good days, I’ve done the dishes, made dinner, taken my bike for an errand, and executed the entire bedtime routine for my son. Some days brewing coffee seems like too much to ask of my body.
It’s not the quantity of moments that matter. It’s the quality of them. My favourite moment recently was when my son and I walked in our house to the “park” and we had to climb through a jungle along the way.
But I realize that it’s not a cancer thing, it’s a mom thing, even if your babies are made of fur. It’s just exacerbated by having cancer. Our society, family, and even friends put pressure on us to be the mindful mama who is ever present, ever engaged. There’s guilt if you check your phone. There’s remorse when you miss a milestone. Going through menopause has taught me to really savour the moments with my son because I won’t get the opportunity with another child, but no I don’t have to enjoy every moment with him. Some moments really freaking suck. But they too will pass in time.
#time #cancer #slow #acceptance #momguilt #cancermommies