I was reading about an acquaintance who was recently diagnosed with cancer. My heart went out to him as I applauded his decision to retire. I was about to say to my wife “if I had cancer, I’d retire and concentrate on the things that matter to me most.”
Before the words could come out of my mouth the reality of my life stepped in. I do have cancer. I just rarely think about it.
Cancer is not causing the majority of my pain or exhaustion, nor is it affecting my breathing, balance or foggy mind. Cancer is not the main cause of my frequent doctor or hospital visits.
Other diseases are much more problematic for me on a daily basis. So, the “Big C” is not forced into my daily awareness. There are three other reason that are probably the main actors in why I don’t think about my cancer.
Firstly, when I tell people I have pancreatic cancer, I can see the reaction in their bodies and the sorrow in their eyes. Even after I tell them it’s slow-growing their interactions with me are subtly changed until they too put it out of their thoughts.
Secondly, quite honestly cancer freaks me out. From up close I’ve watched my mom, aunt, and two good friends be eaten alive by this disease. It’s a miserable disease from which to die, and a horrible thing for loved ones to watch.
And finally, at this point there’s not a lot we can do. With current methods, I’m told that the recovery time from this type of operation would be 12 to 14 months with significant discomfort. On top of my other illnesses, I’m not sure my body could take. Also, it looks like some robotic surgeries may be available in the next few years that would vastly reduce the surgery’s assault on my body.
And I guess, above all these reasons, I don’t think about the cancer because, in my mind, cancer equals illness and possible death. Even though I’m constantly dealing with illness, my orientation is almost entirely towards life and joy.
Thinking about my cancer doesn’t really distress me. Even thinking about my death is, most of the time, not a big deal.
I’m a deeply spiritual man and I care about people. In this life there are things I can do with these issues about which I care so much. There is nothing I can do about what comes after death except live my life according to my ideals and ethics. [I have a belief about what happens to us after death, but that is a topic for a future post.]
Therefore, I concentrate on the things about which I have some control and which will leave the world a little better place after I’m gone.