I am still alive.
Cancer remission has been confirmed. I have been treated with chemotherapy for nearly a year now.
My current treatment is an experimental infusion that lasts 15 days each month. Almost immediately, I experience a nearly imperceptible ebbing of my physical stamina and soon I prefer to walk rather than run, take an escalator instead of the stairs, sit down rather than stand. My life moves into slow motion. I gradually witness a change in my personality and the way I react to people and situations. What makes this experience so difficult and frightening is the loss of control that takes place--a transformation from a fully active and vital person into someone who can barely sit up and function effectively, which is overwhelming and disheartening.
Somewhere inside the deepest part of me, my truest self hides out under cover, and tells me that all of this is temporary and that I must just wait out these drug-induced episodes. This kind voice, along with my unwavering faith in God, enables me to conquer and think somehow I will be able to see my way into the clearing. And so I go on.
1. I try to live day to day. I focus my thoughts in the present tense and try to deal with matters close at hand.
2. I make myself stupid and I try not to think too much about the implications of what it means to have advanced cancer. Instead, I concentrate on concrete and practical things.
3. I try as best I can to compartmentalize the illness and not give it free reign over my existence. I perceive it as unwelcome and boring.
4. I live in a constant state of denial and keep my mind off the disease as much as possible.
5. I surround myself mostly with people and situations that bear no relationship to the illness.
6. I avoid reading or listening to too much about cancer or involving myself with people who are also fighting the disease. Although I am aware they can be beneficial and therapeutic, I avoid support groups in order to prevent myself from allowing any new fears and anxieties about the illness to enter my consciousness.
7. I internalize a belief system that everything I am going through is temporary and will come to an end: I say to myself that in spite of everything, everything will be all right.
8. I stand up to death with a courage I myself do not comprehend, and I do not permit myself to give in to a fear of dying.
9. I acknowledge that it is impossible for anyone to feel like a normal person after living with this illness for about a year, and accept the fact that it's okay to feel crazy and alienated some of the time--or even much of the time.
10. I remind myself that no one knows when their last day will be and that, so far, I have lived longer than many people predicted. I then think that maybe I'm doing something right after all and decide to continue to follow my prescription for coping.
The doomsday scenarios I conjure up during stressful waiting periods are usually far worse than reality. Thank God for Angry Birds and Stieg Larsson for making me sane.