Giving up Control
For many, if not most, of us the loss of control that always accompanies cancer is one of the hardest challenges. The biggest out of control is prognosis, but there are all sorts of smaller challenges: scheduling appointments, not being sure when we won't feel well, hair loss, periods of intense anxiety.
Some women begin by trying even harder than usual to control the things they think that they can. Of course, that is a strategy that is doomed for the start. Example: you manage to schedule an appointment at a time that is actually reasonably convenient, and then the office calls to say that you have been rescheduled because of other people's schedules. When I first went through chemotherapy in 1993, the standard treatment, CMF, caused variable amounts of hair loss. Approximately one third of women gradually became bald, one third had varying amounts of thinning, and one third had little change. I can tell you that the anxiety associated with the not knowing (and the not knowing persists throughout the six months of treatment as hair continues to fall after each infusion) is harder than the certainty (as in my second chemo regiman in 2005) that all hair would go.
This is a poignant and lovely essay by Heather Millar about her mother's death and losing control. I give you an excerpt and a link
:Here are some ways I’ve tried to acknowledge my lack of control — ways I’ve tried to let go and let life take the lead:
• When I get too hyper, too fixated on “how it’s going to turn out,” my husband always tells me: “All you can do is all you can do.” In other words, do your best, but realize that this won’t always mean things turn out the way you want. Do your best, then let go.
• My late mother was a brilliant woman. She became a trail-blazing divorce attorney in the 1950s when women didn’t do things like that. She always told me, and always told her clients, “Do not worry about a bridge until you come to it.” Deal with problems as they come. Don’t imagine all the possible things that might happen. Only some of them will. You’ll waste time and energy worrying about all the possibilities. Deal with what’s in front
of you now.
• Even when things seem truly awful — when chemo or some other treatment is making me miserable or I’m nervously awaiting a crucial test result — I try to find at least one thing each day that gives me joy. Whether we have cancer or are in remission, we’re all fighting for our lives. Don’t forget why
life is worth the fight. Life is always a tangle of good and bad. When things are bad, don’t forget to notice the good, too: It can be something as small as fragrant rose, a warm bath, a beautiful cloud formation. When you see it, grab on and savor the moment.
• I try to accept that there are no guarantees. The docs make their best guesses about which treatment is best for my cancer, and I just have to hope that they make the right judgment call.
• I try to accept that sometimes things just don’t make sense. Like I said before, life is so much bigger than you or me. Who knows why we got cancer? Who knows why one treatment works and another does not? These are mysteries that may never be explained. But even as scary and big and complicated and unpredictable as life is, I still think it’s worth the fight.
What do you think? How do you cope with our lack of control?