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Cancer & Time

Last updated: July 2021

Time and cancer are inextricably linked. Like Siegfried and Roy, Mickey and Minnie, and Luke and Vader, blood cancer and time are tied together in a relationship that fluctuates between a partnership, a relationship, and a straight-up vendetta. Cancer uses and manipulates time more than a flux capacitor and we end up bearing the brunt of the chronological consequences.

Guess what? Cancer is time-consuming. I know when you think of adjectives to describe the big “C,” that phrase, “time consuming” generally doesn’t crack the top ten. In fact, it probably doesn’t even make the list, but it should! Cancer literally consumes your time, and that time could very well be some of the last time you ever enjoy.

Cancer literally consumes your time

Firstly, blood cancer care takes time. I mean simply the practical aspects of living with the illness – there’s going for chemo infusions, which takes an entire day usually. There’s the weekly aftermath of chemo cycles, which can eat up days at a time like a hungry Ms. Pac-Man on a rampage looking for her red bow. Then there’s the doctors visits, the scans, the waiting for the doctor to read the scans, the blood tests, the exams, the time spent yelling at insurance customer service reps on the phone – the list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Having cancer takes time in the fact that simply dealing with all you need to actually live with the illness gives you less time each day to actually live.

I doubt this is going to be a surprise to anyone but doing all of these things when you have cancer takes energy –energy you don’t have. Like a car running on fumes while you silently pray it’s enough to make it to the next gas station because you also have to pee really bad, cancer pushes you to the brink and before you know it you’ve used up your spoons for the day. (For those that never heard that term, see spoon theory.) As I said, time and cancer don’t mix, and the care and upkeep aspect is a big culprit when it comes to devouring time, but it’s not the worst.

Cancer also takes the time you have before your body gives out

I’m gonna be honest, when I starting writing this piece I had several reasons why cancer eats time in my head and I thought it would work out fine to just talk about those reasons but then I saw what I actually wrote. “Cancer is time-consuming.” Sure, it’s a metaphor, but honestly, cancer literally does consume your body whose continued integrity is responsible for how much time you have left on this Earth. So, by the, err, transitive property? Bah, let’s just say “by logic,” that cancer does literally consume your time, whatever you have left of it anyway. This is the big one, the heavy hitter, the real head-scratcher – not only does blood cancer take up time in your day but it, quite literally, eats up, physically, the time you have before your body gives out. That’s one of the hardest aspects of having the illness – coming to terms with the fact that cancer may be responsible for your early departure from this Earthly plane.

So now you know. Not only does cancer care take an inordinate amount of time, but the illness itself eats away your insides, taking actual time off your actual life, and you must find some way to be OK with this. How? I’m sorry to say I can’t tell you how to do that. I can say that I just stopped caring about it or that I stopped thinking about even a hint of dying, or that I wasn’t worried at all, but those would be lies. Even if they were true, there’s no guarantee they’d be right for you. Every person out there has to find a way to come to terms with their diagnosis and the time it’s going to steal from you.

Still coping with time stealers, even in remission

All in all, by the time my ordeal was on its way to remission (should be official by the time you read this), cancer had stolen much from me – a wife, a relationship, friends, family and acquaintances but, mostly, it just took time. Almost four years of my life were taken out in a slice and set down on the side with an asterisk that read, “*time lost due to cancer.” Even with remission soon near, the fatigue of the whole ordeal continues to steal mornings from me, sometimes more. If I was able to get up early and work for those two or three hours, who knows what I could accomplish. Discovering the secret to cold fusion? Finding the lost city of Atlantis? Finally folding that pile of laundry?

Who’s to say what’s important to get done? It doesn’t really matter – I’ll never find out because I’m still struggling to get up by 10:30 am and get into a chair in front of my computer by 2 pm, to start the few hours of work I can do. The cancer fatigue is still a real thing and now I’m worried that it will be with me for life, combining with my chronic illness and exponentially making me waste time. There may come a time when I can no longer put on the smile suit and work for a few hours a day, but until the happens I’m spending every minute I can rallying against the greatest time thief of all time – cancer. Talk soon.

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