A room mate sits on the couch with dirty shoes, drinking beer and eating pizza

Cancer is the Worst Roommate!

The worst thing about my college days was not studying for exams or writing term papers. The worst thing was dealing with roommates. Now, ladies, don't any of you call me! I wish you all well, and I have kept up with a couple of you through mutual friends. If I had college to do over again, I would room with someone different each semester. Maybe if I had lived with someone for only a few months, we could have remained friends instead of being sick of each other by Spring Break. You know it's true.

My supervisor, where I worked in the university library, told me, "College roommates can be the best thing that ever happened to you or the worst thing." (She had stayed in touch with her roommate for more than 40 years!) I don't think they were the worst thing, but it was my best year when I roomed alone.

I have myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) living with me these days. It's the worst roommate ever! MDS causes the bone marrow to work incorrectly. In my case, my bone marrow does not produce enough red cells for energy or enough white cells to fight infection. MDS has no respect for my privacy, interferes with my plans, and steals my energy.

I have no privacy

The roommate who would get calls at 3:00 a.m. drove me nuts! Picture a small room with two twin beds. The phone was on a table between our beds. In 1977, telephones had the loud wake-up-the-dead ringer on them, decades before texting, and even before most people had answering machines.

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I need a lot of privacy for sleep these days because of MDS. Unfortunately, sometimes I can't sleep because of MDS. I know that I should say a prayer and not think about what might happen. Worrying will not make the MDS go away.

MDS interferes with my plans

"You should have..." Did I ask for your advice? One roommate kept telling me what she thought I should do about every little thing.

MDS interferes with my plans. I can't be spontaneous these days. If a friend calls and asks me to go someplace in the morning, but I already have plans for the afternoon, I know I can't do both. I cannot hurry with MDS.

Stealing my energy

Luckily, I never had any roommates steal from me. However, I did have one who wanted to help herself to my new jacket. I told her she needed to ask first.

MDS steals my energy. I wanted to clean out a cabinet this afternoon, but I ran out of energy. Oh, well, maybe tomorrow.

My rules for living with cancer

  1. Rest when I get tired.
  2. Learn as much as I can about MDS so that I participate in my treatment plan.
  3. Take care of me. Eat foods that give me energy and drink plenty of water.
  4. Keep active at my own pace. Tai Chi is an excellent form of exercise for me.
  5. Advocate for myself. If someone wants me to drive to Timbuktu for a meeting, I can say no.

If cancer were a person, I would tell it to make other living arrangements. It's like the roommate who would get angry when I made a statement that she disagreed with; you have to tip-toe around it. I can't send cancer packing as much as I'd like to, so cancer will have to live with me, and have to follow my rules!

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