Forgetting About Cancer
It is quite a feat to forget that you have cancer. It is an accomplishment to not think about cancer very first thing in the morning and very last thing at night. When I talk with people who are in the throes of diagnosis or treatment, I promise them that this will eventually happen, but warn that it may take a long time.
Most of us, blessedly, are pretty good at denial. Whether it is denial or just feeling better and having life kick in, cancer does step back from center stage at some point. It often coincides with the morning that you awaken and think: "Huh....I remember feeling like this, feeling like me."
With thanks to Gail for stimulating these comments and sharing this essay by Whitney Archer from The Washington Post:
The last time someone reminded me I have cancer was at a funeral. A woman I barely knew walked up to me, arms open wide. “Whitney, you look so good!” she said, fawning over me and assuring me that I was on her church’s prayer chain.
I stood there, blinking and drawing a blank. What was she talking about?
Then I remembered: Oh yeah, I have brain cancer. I carry a malignant tumor around everywhere I go. I’m 31 years old and have had brain cancer for five years. The doctors say I might live two years or 18. They have no idea. It’s entirely possible I will die of something else before my tumor kills me. Maybe.
As medical advances and oncological therapies continue to progress, more cancer patients are living longer, even somewhat normal lives. More people are discovering that their diagnoses may not lead to an eventual cure or a death sentence, but an unknown future for their lives and their diseases. We’re on a third path: We have cancer, but we’re mostly okay. For us, cancer begins with a traumatizing diagnosis but eventually becomes a regular part of life, with the occasional MRI squeezed in between kids’ birthday parties and dental appointments. And soon we realize that, not unlike asthma or diabetes, cancer can be a chronic condition. As time passes, a slow-learned truth begins to reveal itself: It is possible to live and die at the same time.