The Future - Flying Cars, Robot Butlers, & Cancer?
The future is a wondrous place. Or so we’ve been told. The fact of the matter is that when you have cancer, the future isn’t quite as rosy a picture as it is for many. At best, the future is a bittersweet place, where there might be a few things to look forward to but mostly, it’s not going to be great. Kind of like going to the wedding of someone you work with or Pizza Hut.
I mean, when you think of the future you think of robot butlers, flying cars, and entire meals in one pill. Hmm, maybe that last one was from Willy Wonka’s factory, but you get the idea. The future is supposed to be something we look forward to, but lymphoma doesn’t play by the rules so, instead, it leaves us with that ever-lingering fear of what "the future" may eventually bring, a.k.a. The Cat In The Hat comes back. With cancer.
The fear of recurrence
I’ve talked to many people who suspect they might have cancer, those who have cancer now, and even those who have had cancer before and beat it, and they all have one thing in common. No matter how long ago they had cancer, be it yesterday or 15 years ago, there is always a spot reserved in the back of their mind for that persistent fear of what happens if it comes back. Like the smoky table in the back of the restaurant in Goodfellas, fear of the future is there, ready to ask, “What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?” And then cancer beats the Hell out of you.
It’s a unique type of fear of the future those of us with cancer deal with. I also have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic illness, and it produces its own fear of the future, but it’s nothing in comparison with the fear that there’s something inside me that can easily kill me that might decide one day to rear its ugly head. Like going to a get-together and seeing your ex there. THAT ex, the one that ripped your heart out of your chest and front of you and then threw it onto the floor and stomped it into a fine paste and then took the paste and wrote “suck it” on your forehead. You know the one I mean. Yeah, cancer is that ex, the one that can instantly ruin your week just by thinking about them, just by being reminded they exist and haven’t fallen off the end of the Earth yet.
Fearing the loss of my independence
One of the worst parts of the future fears of cancer is the loss of independence. No one wants to have to rely on someone else for things like getting dressed and being fed. Trust me, I have been in the hospital for months and it’s awful. I mean, yes, it’s true, after about two weeks in the hospital every shred of dignity goes out the window – you’re peeing in a jar, you’re wearing what amounts to a rejected Snuggy prototype, and people use wipes to wash you down like a rhino at the zoo every two days and let you air dry.
Yeah, so you can see, the bar for being humiliated is pretty low already but, still, when someone has to dress you, somehow, the tiny reserve of personal pride and dignity you have left evaporates. It’s mortifying, especially when the nurse is younger than you, it makes you feel 1000000 years old. Now I imagine having to suffer that indignity from age 75 onward and it makes me shudder even considering it but that is something that is certainly in the realm of possibility for my future.
Will someone be there in the future?
Another consideration of the future is being alone. For me, my mother is my main point of contact since I got divorced and a constant worry is that if my cancer does come back years from now, will anyone be around to fight it with me? Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends and wonderful siblings, but let’s face it, no one can take the place of a parent. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find someone to put up with all that makes up the chaotic medical mosaic that is me, but odds are not in my favor. I’ve never had to do it alone before, and I hope I don’t ever have to, but that’s another part of what the future may hold in store.
So, living on the moon, having miniature lions for pets, and instant teleportation travel the future may indeed hold, but those aren’t the things that crop up in my mind the most. Cancer returning, losing my independence, and being alone – those are the future developments that concern me the most. Although, I’d certainly live on the moon if I could, although it might be a schlep to get to my doctors. At least they’d have a CVS, though, they’re everywhere. Talk soon.
Have you met another blood cancer patient?