Things I Wish I Had Done In My First Year Of Cancer

Last updated: January 2022

It’s that time again – the New Year. I’m sure you have been completely overloaded with posts about new year’s resolutions and what everyone is thankful for and yadda, yadda, etc. Now, nothing against those posts, they are an essential part of the writers’ year and a required palette cleanser for the 12 months to come, in this case, 2022. Rather than add to the chorus of voices who have already done this, though, I’m going to do something different this year.

Instead of going through all of the things I’m going to shoot for in 2022, I thought it might be better to provide some of the things that I wish I did in the first new year after my lymphoma was diagnosed. It took almost three months to finally get a diagnosis, but when I did, I kind of just went on living as if nothing changed. I didn’t really do anything special or go out of my way to achieve anything notable. At the time I would just say to myself, “I survived, that’s enough,” any time I felt like I hadn’t done enough. While that was good enough back then, I do wish there were some things I did that initial year.

Stopping to celebrate

First, I wish that I had stopped to really celebrate more. One night, around the end of chemo, we had a small cake, but other than that I didn’t really stop to acknowledge any major achievements.

Even if you aren’t done with chemo you can celebrate. Even if you just started chemo you can celebrate. Hell, even if you just finally found an oncologist who doesn’t talk to you like you’re a third-grader who got caught trying to eat the classroom goldfish – celebrate it. You have to take the time to accentuate the positive milestones – no matter how small you think they are. I wish I did.

Don't make any major life decisions

Next, you shouldn’t make any major life decisions while you are going through cancer. I, unfortunately, had a major life decision thrust upon me during chemo. My ex-wife decided that she would be better served as a wife by the delivery guy, so I had to prosecute my own divorce during the first cycle of chemo. That meant deciding what to keep and what to give up, and also what to ask for in the divorce.

Because I was so focused on simply surviving and I didn’t want the stress of a marriage ending to be drawn out forever, I basically agreed to whatever would be the quickest and quietest separation. Was it the right choice? I honestly don’t know, but I can say for sure that I didn’t consider things very meticulously simply because I was fighting for my life at the time. I should have waited until I was in a bit of a less precarious health situation before I did it, but again, it wasn’t really just my choice. Barring a divorce being thrust on you, though, try to put off any major life decisions until you have a handle on what’s happening to your body. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Don't overresearch online

Finally, I should have not gone bonkers on looking up and reading about my cancer on the Internet. You see, after thirty years or so of chronic illness, I was an old hand when it came to researching my own illnesses. In fact, over the years, I have caught more than one doctor being wrong based on the research and reading I had done on my rheumatoid arthritis. The problem is, though, when it comes to cancer, reading about it on the Internet is an entirely different ballpark. Heck, it’s an entirely different galaxy. There is so much information online about cancer and, well, not all of it is productive, let’s say. There are tons of websites that are valuable sources of patient perspectives and clinical info, not that I’m shilling for any in particular *cough* *cough* but too much of even a good thing can be dangerous. Keep your intake to a minimum.

So, I hope my perspective on some of the things I wish I did in my first year after diagnosis will help those of you who are just beginning your journey in this new year. In lieu of resolutions or promises, these simple things can help you get through what’s going to be, probably, one of the tougher years in your life. You can do it, though, and remember in 2022, you’re not alone. Talk soon!

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