Cancer at 34 Part 4: Searching for Equanimity

One of my main efforts thus far has been trying to come to terms with my diagnosis. Especially at the beginning, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of regret and became obsessed with “what if” or what “might have been.” But, the only the thing I can do now is put my head down and get through this. As Leah has said, I’m where I need to be right now, whether or not it’s nice or fun. That doesn’t mean I’m not angry about it, as you’ll see in my next blog post.

People have reached out on Facebook, by text, and through email to express their love and support, which has been great. But it’s also been tough, because I see former coworkers, colleagues, and friends going on about their daily lives, taking nice trips, and buying cars. I do feel jealous and envious, but I try to remember that is just temporary setback. I’ll be able to accomplish all the things I want after the treatment gets underway.

In many ways, I’m very lucky, and the serendipity of all this has been another common theme on my mind. This was going to happen, sooner or later – there’s no way around it. Now is probably the best time it could have happened, because I’m in Cincinnati with family and friends who love me. I had enough time to restart my life here, build a network of friends, and find a church community where I fit in. I was on the cusp of moving out and getting a new job – those are both gone for now, but in a way it’s a blessing because I hadn’t signed the lease yet. On the other hand, I could have still been in Pittsburgh when this happened where I didn’t have much of a support network.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but the timing of all this makes me wonder if there isn’t something more powerful than just chance at work here. I don’t put much stock in divine intervention on the personal level. I think it’s kind of arrogant and greedy to expect whatever divine power there may be to intervene on my behalf. I’m just one of billions of people on this planet, and many of them need help more than I do. Friends and acquaintances have said prayers for me and maybe they helped – I have no idea. I’m not going to turn into some bible-thumping born again Christian, but I do feel obligated to try and develop a more concrete personal spirituality and philosophy.

I’m becoming a cancer patient. I won’t be a survivor because I’ll live with this disease the rest of my life, however long that may be. I’ve started to meet other people with cancer, and it has really put my situation in perspective. Recently, I met a man about my age who was diagnosed with cancer at age 18 and had a testicle removed. At a recent support group orientation, I met a married couple, again about the same age as me, with two young children. The wife has breast cancer and is scheduled to undergo 16 rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a mastectomy. I’m sure I’ll meet other people with more harrowing stories than mine. I’ll try to keep them in mind, because it seems like I have a good chance to hold my own against this disease.

In a way, this ordeal is blessing, since it gave me a newfound urgency in life. As Henry Rollins wrote:

“No such things as spare time

No such thing as free time

No such thing as down time

All you got is life time”

I know what’s coming. This cancer may not kill me for a long time; in fact, it might be something else entirely, such as a car accident, heart disease, etc. But at least it gave me the chance to prioritize what’s important to me, and I don’t want to have any more regrets. Previously, I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and I had a very heavy filter that hid what I thought and felt. Obviously, that’s gone now because I don’t have time to waste. I can live with looking stupid, but I can’t live with regrets any more. I’m probably not going to go skydiving (although I wouldn’t rule it out entirely), but this experience has made me feel very keenly the pressure of time. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but time is very precious, and I’m glad that I had the chance to appreciate that while I can still do something about it.

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