What Blood Cancer Teaches You
Last updated: November 2023
Getting the news I had blood cancer was a bit of a shock. And while I did not know it at the time, my not-so-good news would evolve into many teachable moments on multiple levels.
New perspectives and observations
Over time my unwelcome guest presented me with various combinations of stress and anxiety along with a new awakening and approaches to both life and living. While cancer was top of mind for me, I soon found that my interest in death and cancer was not on the hit parade of fun-filled discussion topics when getting together with friends and family. Many folks whom I presumed were friends quietly slipped away. Some whom I never expected to do so grew closer.
The question is what possible helpful outcomes can come about after you are hit square in the face with the reality of a cancer diagnosis?
I wanted to avoid talking about my uncertain life
Like many travelers here after my initial diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I simply wanted to retreat behind a wall of silence and avoid any conversation about life and my uncertain future. Candidly my world had been turned upside down and I was not sure when or if I would find footing or stability.
Treatment offered needed routine
Going into treatment was scary but at the same time and in an odd way it offered a much-needed sense of structure. I had to leave my home on a certain day and time. I had to spend 8 hours in a treatment room and due to COVID had to drive myself home. I followed certain eating and drinking protocols and did the same thing over and over for months on end. The very treatment protocols and regimen I feared forced me out of isolation mode and back into the world of the living.
Discovering new interests
With time, I slowly became aware of a new reality. I could evolve into a different person and if I chose to do so. I now had an opportunity to explore new goals. On an impulse, I signed up for a music subscription service and picked up a set of earbuds. I found listening to music was helpful while undergoing infusions, but also found music brought a new level of comfort when resting in my sunroom recovering from treatment.
Life has a way of moving us along and it did not take long before I decided a take a short walk with my new earbuds. Sure enough, I needed to remove them when I ran into folks who wanted to be neighborly and chat. Without really trying I was uncovering new and valuable relationship links with people I had hardly known in the past. While I did not want to be in large social settings, I was cherishing meeting folks in smaller settings. Walking along with 2 or 3 people was a lot easier than meeting 25 people during coffee hour at church.
When you are meeting with oncologists, PAs, RNs, and more on a bi-weekly basis it is easy to forget the need for routine follow-up meetings with your dentist, or general practitioner, or eye doctor, or dermatologist. But thanks to some minor issues that showed up thanks to treatment I soon found myself scheduling more routine MD visits I had avoided for months.
Learning to connect through technology
When my energy was at an all-time low due to treatments, I discovered how easy it was to sign up for something called telemedicine visits. I also started to use FaceTime on my cell phone and began attending church services again via ZOOM.
Cancer has not been fun or easy, but it did force me to change many of my habits, come out of isolation, and find new ways to reengage in life.
So here is a question for each of you. How has Blood-Cancer with its many challenges changed you for the better?
How do you feel about your support system?