Reaching Equilibrium with Your Cancer
Like most of us, the date I was diagnosed with cancer is etched in my memory. May 2, 2011. In terms of specifics, I remember what the doctor was saying before he gave the actual diagnosis. But once he said the words that I have multiple myeloma my mind went blank. My wife and my mom were with me. I heard them talking but about what I have no idea. After that it was a whirlwind. I started chemo the very next day and underwent a whole host of procedures. I had a port installed in my upper chest, I had full body x-rays, blood work and on top of it all I felt physically horrible.
For weeks and months after my diagnosis, I experienced the range of emotions with depression and anger leading the way. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I basically wanted to curl up in a corner and be left alone. I knew that family and friends wanted to know how I was doing so I started up my blog. I told folks to check it for updates, that I wasn’t talking to anyone. Writing also proved to be cathartic for me.
I recently passed seven years since my diagnosis. For the first 5 years or so, on my blog, I would acknowledge my monthly anniversary. 24 months was huge, because at diagnosis, I had set that as my target for how long I’d live. Fortunately, time flew by and the months kept passing by. I’d post pictures of acknowledgement of each monthly milestone. For 44 months, I posted a picture of Chuck Foreman, my favorite Minnesota Viking of all time who wore number 44. I’d plan for what I’d post at 50 months or 63 months.
An unexpected benefit of my blog was that I met other patients. Like some people, when diagnosed, I had never heard of multiple myeloma. Googling it simply scared the daylights out of me. But getting to know other patients was the best thing. I could share experiences and concerns with them. I’d be motivated by them and learn more about the disease.
Living with uncertainty
Very recently, I spent some time with a fellow patient who has had the disease for over 20 years. That is so inspiring and gives me such hope. We talked about how when I first met him a few years ago, I asked how he was able to live with the mental and emotional uncertainty of having an incurable cancer for so many years. I was really struggling with this idea of living 10, 15, or 20 years with a giant question mark hanging over my head. I couldn’t imagine being ok with that. At the time he said, you just get used to it. As we talked the other day, I realized that I had reached that point. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my cancer. But it no longer gives me a crushed feeling. Instead, I do what I need to do medically and try to live my best life, while not thinking about what ifs. At some point on my blog, I stopped noting my monthly cancerversaries. The 2nd of each month passes by without a mention. I plan on living a long time with this disease but it’s not going to monopolize my thoughts. I do still celebrate my year anniversaries. This year we went bowling with some friends and I let myself overindulge on things I normally wouldn’t eat.
I also recently spoke with a friend who is about 3 years in to the disease. She’s where I was at a few years ago, wondering how the heck you can mentally handle living with the disease for a long time. I told her that I had no words of wisdom other than saying that at some point we adjust. I can’t point to a specific time when our attitude changes, but it does. If nothing else I have learned patience over the past seven years.
Do you worry about relapse?