A diagnosis such as mine brings focus to life. It is a focus, however, that changes over time. At first the focus is on the fear, anger and bewiderment that comes with being told that you have a disease for which there is no cure. But is didn’t take me too long before I began to realise that, for a start, I wasn’t going to keel over and die in the near future, and that I actually needed to bring my life into focus and gain a bit of control over my situation.
When you are faced with the stark fact that this disease is more than likely going to be the cause of your death, and that death is not going to be decades away, maybe not ever years away you eventually just have to face the fact that you need to get a grip on things, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start moving forwards. The only alternative is to sit in a corner and die, and once I realised that this was NOT going to happen to me I just had to get on with life. But let me make it clear that there is nothing heroic about this, it is pragmatism.
That is not to say that this was easy to do and it still isn’t some times. Life contracts into the periods between scans and treatments. It means that life gets to be about the next few weeks, and this can make it difficult to decide what to do in the longer term. Earlier this year it seemed as though my cancer might have been progressing and because it took them three months before they finally decided that it wasn’t, it made making any plans of what to do during the summer holidays away from work rather difficult. Was there any point in making any plans? Would I need extra treatment, or surgery, and if so what, where, when and how?
While it brings a certain uncertainty into your life it is also liberating. There is no point in my worrying about when I reach pensionable age as it is highly unlikely that will happen; especially as the government keeps raising the retirement age. I am 52 now and I might have been able to make 60, which was the age I could have retired at when I started work. Then it went up to 65, then 66 and I think this year it went up to 67 but by then I wasn’t really taking any notice of it anyway. What is the point of worrying about something that is 15 years away.
I was initially told I have six months to a year to live, then two to three years, and now? I don’t know and I don’t care. I am not going to give this dis-ease any more time or energy than it has already taken and continues to take. It’s presence is always there, but sometimes I can actually forget about it for hours on end. I allow it to be there, to be acknowledged, but I don’t allow it control. Initially it controlled everything about me, physically and mentally; then as time went on it just got pushed out of the way to make space for being alive. I like to think that in a way I took its power away when I allowed it to just be with me, but not own me. I have cancer, it does not have me. It took a while to get to that point, and I have drowned a teddy bear, or two, in tears and bounced them off walls in anger. It ain’t easy, but then life isn’t easy is it?
Oh, and by the way I plan on coming back as a teddy bear so they better get on and find a cure for this damned thing …