It’s a heady mix. You have advanced cancer which is, by definition, both incurable and terminal. And yet, thanks to ‘the wonders of modern medicine’, you’re alive–aka–not dead yet.
Because you prescribe to not just a glass half full but rather a ‘my cup runneth over’ mindset, you always try to stay focused on the bright spots. First, waking up in the morning. Never, ever, taken for granted. The chance to see your children even a few minutes longer–mind blowingly awesome. Meeting fellow travelers on this friggin ‘journey’–others who’ve been smacked upside the head with cancer–your life has been made oh so much richer by each and every one of them. And then there is the fact that you get to hang with your oncologist (a goddess) and a bunch of swell nurses—perk and more perks.
So yeah, you’ve been fortunate. And at the moment, you are on a targeted therapy that is keeping your cancer in check. You don’t even look as if you’re sick, let alone terminal.
Which, by the way, makes it very easy for those around you to forget that you have cancer at all.
But you, you’re always aware. Friedrich Nietzsche once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Bullshit. Sometimes it just keeps on trying.
Each day you continue surviving is an achievement. It is also a tremendous struggle–physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. An endless struggle too, as there is no top of the mountain, no victory lap, no cure in sight.
The heady mix becomes a mind fuck. If you are lucky, you have adequate support. Enough resources so that you don’t live in a constant state of anxiety; friends and family with sufficiently long attention spans who don’t drop away when terminal becomes chronic.
Because the truth is, nobody wants to think about cancer all the time. My marriage ended, in large part, because my partner found our lives too ‘cancer-centric’. I’d break up with cancer this very moment if I were able to, but it seems we are one and the same. Cancer doesn’t just inhabit my body, on a cellular level, it is me. My own selfish, nihilistic and wildly dis-obediant cells.
Sigh. Living well may be the best revenge and most of us do whatever we can with what we have to work with. I’m certainly not interested in becoming a schadenfreude. However, when living itself (liv·ing: a : having life) is a big fat uncertainty, then living well often requires more psychic energy than a person can muster.
Short of curing cancer there’s not much you can do other than to be understanding. And supportive. It’s not easy living with the knowledge that you are terminal; harder still to remain happy while doing so. Honor that.