Not that I was ever a CB person (Citizens Band radio), good buddy, but right now, I am in the middle of both my four-to-five week infusion interval and my quarterlyscan interval. Far enough past that I don’t have any residual food or emotional issues and not close enough that I have any anxiety about the food and emotional issues that will inevitably occur. I am between a rock and a hard place, and I mean that in an atypical way: I am under no pressure, but no illusions either, oddly enough. I am sailing smooth and riding high, mindful of my reality, but appreciative of the relative — and comparative calm with which this interval affords.
Not that I can be normal (not a cancer “diagnosee”), but this is as close to ‘normal’ as it gets — for me. After all, I do have a “terminal” form of cancer (non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV), not a cold, so it’s not as if it will go away with time. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the particularly good times — now, while trying to manage my expectations for the bad times — later, after this honeymoon-type period ends. But since there have been many more good times than bad since I was diagnosed in late February 2009, I am not bogged down, emotionally by my circumstances, although I am somewhat compromised, physically. Nothing I can’t live with, however. Actually, I’m thrilled to live with any of it, ‘live’ being the operative word.
At this juncture, nearly eight years post initial symptoms (New Year’s Day 2009), mostly I can handle what happens to me, so far any way. But when similar stuff happens to others: death, disease, disability, dementia; I feel their pain, sort of; and suffer emotionally. It’s not as if I take in all their anxiety, but in a way, the weight of it does affect me. And sometimes, I get weepy over it. As I’ve written before, and heard many times as well in the cancer world, negative anything is extremely harmful to cancer patients — or most other “terminal” patients I would imagine as well. From my own experience though, I certainly understand the difficult circumstances under which all us patients/survivors endure; remaining positive and being surrounded by positivity is key as is humor, encouragement, compliments, congratulations, compassion and empathy. All are crucial to our core. Healthy bodies we may no longer have, but healthy minds we have to maintain. And the stronger and healthier that mind is, the more it will help us to mind our own business and do so in a manner that will prevent the cancer from taking over those minds.
Just as The United Negro College Fund “slogans” “A mind is a terrible thing to waste;” in the cancer world, it’s terrible when patients are unable to use their minds to fight their disease. In many cases, cancer is a killer, there’s no doubt about that, but allowing negative emotions to take over is really unhelpful. Accentuating the positive (like the subject of this column) and minimizing the negative has to be the order of the day — and the night, too. You have to find the good or the funny and embrace it, exaggerate it, extend it, elongate it, and reinforce it. Anything to make sure it matters more than the bad. Bad is bad enough on its own. It doesn’t need any help from us. Focusing on what I can enjoy hopefully will enable me to keep on trekking, and to “Live long and prosper.” Come back.