Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I REMEMBER (what I like about cancer)

It probably seems peculiar to consider what is there to like about cancer. I think that “THE C-WORD” gets a bad rap. For one thing: (stating the obvious) NONE of us is getting out of this life alive, and I think there are MANY worse ways to go. I’d choose cancer over sudden death by any means or a long painful downward spiral of physical function. Permanent loss of mental and/or physical function from stroke or aneurysm? NO thank you!

I’ve never included my name on the list of those who’d like to simply to die in my sleep. (I think the presumption of those who DO want to go that way is that they’ll get to live a “LONG” life before taking that long last nap. Obviously we don’t have a whole lot of choice in that matter.)

Speaking from experience, sudden death is horrifically painful for those left behind. Both the survivors and the departed are deprived of the ability to easily tie up loose ends.

But, I digress, because my point in appreciating my cancer is focusing on LIFE. I think that the fear associated with cancer has to do with the focus on impending death. The cancer diagnosis makes it uncomfortably more difficult for many to ignore their mortality and impermanence.

It seems much easier to pretend we aren’t going to die, to assume that we’ll live to “a ripe old age.” So, I’ll say it: I’m going to die, and so are you. And just because I’ve got cancer doesn’t mean I’m going to go before you.

Last year, during my first rounds of treatment for lung cancer, I had no problem finding much to celebrate and be grateful for. In all fairness, I felt I wasn’t really challenged. I was off work, on disability, without any big financial worries, and I tolerated my treatment well. No nausea, hair that only thinned. The worst side effect I experienced was occasional but profound fatigue. This meant that I’d sometimes spend 3-5 days in my pajamas, doing not much more than moving from my bed to the recliner. Kinda sounds like a vacation, huh?

This year, I’m finding myself dealing with a few new side effects, including pain, which has not only disrupted my sleep, but necessitated prescription pain meds over the course of months. I’ve also lost my hair, or at least most of it. Keeping my spirits up HAS been a little more difficult this time, but I am coming around.

As long as I can be comfortable, and am blessed (as I know I am) to not have to struggle financially, then this ISN’T so bad.

So, here’s at least part of the list, now that I’m beginning to remember what I like about my cancer:

I don’t have to wake to an alarm clock 5 days a week.
My friends bring me meals.
I can nap every day.
Friends and loved ones make sure to say “I love you” frequently.
If pain keeps me up for a few hours in the middle of the night, I can watch a movie and knit until the pain meds kick in, and just sleep in a little longer in the AM.
I’m expected to be grumpy once in a while.
I have the time to meditate, pray and generally focus on my health.
I gain a couple of hours every day from not having to “dress professionally”, prepare lunches, and drive to and from work.
I can take more time to stay connected with loved ones.
I cry more easily.
When I have the energy, I have the time to take walks or putter in the garden with my husband.
I am considered to have more wisdom because of what I am going through.
I am more aware of the simple beauty of life.


  1. You rock Linda! Besides your absolute gift for stating the beauty in your life, I love how you use the phrase "my cancer". It is you. On a less profound note, I've always been aware of how people refer to excess weight as "the weight". As in, "if I could get the weight off".....

    I think it's our way of keeping the unwanted at arms length. But it's still pRt of us. So if we keep "the cancer" or "the weight" at a distance, we are keeping our selves at a distance. And what good does that do? So I think we embrace parts of ourselves until we show them to the door and kiss them goodbye.

    My wish and prayer for the day is that we have all captured some of your insight and have taken it into our hearts. This is an easy lesson since you took one for the team and got cancer...one lesson we don't have to learn the hard way.

    You are absolutely right....none of us leaves this world alive. My hope is that our time is still a ways off and when it comes we have a smile in our hearts.

    Rock on Linda!

  2. Linda,

    Aside from the fact that many of the things on your list sound disturbingly similar to my life now that I'm unemployed (or as someone told me to say, "between projects") except for the fact that people aren't telling me they love me a lot...I am really enjoying your blogs. You are quickly growing as a blogger (well, wait, that kind of sounds like something one WOULDN'T want growing..~)and I hope that you are getting as much out of writing them as your readers are reading them.
    Now get back to bed!! (posted 2:36 AM!?!?)



  3. (Barry again)

    Hi Linda;

    Very creative wonderful approach...I think you are really on to something here.
    First,as you point out, is this fear of death we all have. You hear people say, jokingly,that they are OK with death, they just don't want to be there when it happens. Ha Ha. But when you think about it, you won't be there when it happens. You, and death are mutually exclusive, when death is, you aren't, so you can't ever experience death....because you really won't be there. Ramm Dass says don't worry, dying is perfectly safe!

    One other thing about dying is important too: The closer you come, the more valuable and beautiful your remaining life is. This is an old stock market principle: the less shares there are outstanding, the higher the value of each share. The less hours one may have left to live, the more valuable each remaining hour becomes, until finally every moment reaches an infinite value....when you realize that, then you have really discovered the meaning of life.

    Love Barry.

  4. So, making lemonade out of lemons.
    And then; telling us how good it is.....

    I love you.

    Bob Heygood

  5. I'm not sure which of my lovely friends posted the above, but I've got a guess.

    I like your explanation regarding the term "MY" cancer, but the reason I put it that way was because I KNOW that my experience isn't the same as that of other cancer patients.

    I'm not young enough to be caring for children at home, I have good insurance, I'm not a primary wage earner, now faced with trying to support a family while in treatment. My mother, with Alzheimer's, suddenly passed away from a stroke days before I was to start treatment. Of course, I loved her dearly, but the stress of parental caregiving was gone. I believe my job is being held securely for me.

    I've so many reasons to know how easy MY cancer experience is, compared to that of others.

  6. Nina, Nina, Nina---read items 1 & 5 on the list! It's 8:20 AM, and I'm JUST getting up after being up for several hours in the night.
    Something tells me my stomach was rebelling at the jalepeno-cornbread muffins.
    YES...I'm loving indulging my desire to write!

  7. Barry,
    Are you really certain we won't be there in that moment? I suspect we will...we'll be here AND there.

    If dying wasn't safe, would so many do it?!

    YES, I HOPE that's a LONG way off, but in any event, I hope we'll be celebrating our times together!

  8. Bob,
    I love you too.
    When are you bringing dinner?!

    You looked HOT in that wonderful Hawaiian shirt on Sunday!!


  9. I love all of the comments - yours, Linda, as well as everyone else's. Thanks. It's so rare that we contemplate our lives and thoughts as a series of beliefs, or belief systems. As I age and have multiple intense life experiences, my belief systems alter - smoothing the path as I go. One of my life-long favorite quotes comes from a book titled "Touch the Earth - A Self-Portrait of Indian Existence".... this from Crowfoot -

    "What is life? It is the flash of the firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the Sunset".

    Took many years for me to recognize that Crowfoot understood living in the moment. No matter what the mind tells us, no matter what we project and then believe (cause that is how the mind works), we have only one moment, and it is right now. It is ALWAYS now. I woke this morning to discover my body was experiencing vertigo. Felt like the worse possible hangover, but no drugs or alcohol or anything of that nature had been in the body - something just working through. Realized that I would not be able to work today (couldn't stand, so taking x-rays was out of the question!). Lying in bed realized that I was fine, just my body was having a bit of a rough go. Separating my body from that deeper essence of who I am who you are who we are - I/we are just fine. I am very thankful that you see the gifts of your moments and are able to accept all the beauty.

    Now it's 11 a.m. I sit in bed with laptop rejoicing in this moment. Sliding into mySelf I am never alone. It is a human condition to fear and the fear of death is elemental. Read in the paper the other day that humans managed to communicate the thought of 'death' to a gorilla or chimpanze (sorry, can't remember which) - great, now we are really going forward in life. What can we know? We can only guess or believe...


  10. Hi Linda,

    We miss you at work but love the fact that you're able to take care of yourself and get well. Your Blog is inspirational, thoughtful, and a true reflection of your wonderful spirit. I look forward to seeing you in the next few weeks.

    Keep writing-I'll try to do more when I have more time.

  11. Linda,
    Your words and perspective are a beautiful way you keep us all in the loop of Thankfulness. Thank God for you touching our lives.

    I am reminded of all I am gratful for.


  12. Dear Linda,
    Love your blog. It's the first one I've ever been on & I am enjoying everyones comments, especially yours. I am in Ft Lauderdale working this week and the weather is really nice. I'll call ya when I get back in town and hopefully we can get together soon. Love you and you are in my prayers always. Dusty


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