I'm sixty-two years old and an eight year survivor of multiple myeloma. It's difficult to gain perspective on the range of feelings, fear mixed with wonder, that follows one's being diagnosed with cancer. Like most I consider the inevitable, thoughts that strike suddenly, randomly, at any time of night or day.
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Living with cancer is overwhelming at times. There is no point in self pity but fatigue, psychological and physical, is a great and destructive weight on the will.
The exigencies of the treatment process steal time from everyday obligations, which continue with the intensity, complexity and unrelenting expectation that have always been. The need to be at work is unrelated to career advancement or a bigger bonus. Keeping the job, no matter what it takes to be in early and consistently, is critical as a way to maintain the insurance that pays for the expensive treatment of advancing cancer. Medical appointments take time from work so one sacrifices vacation time to avoid becoming an afterthought to management.
The work around the house must get done; the dogs walked, tax documents organized for the accountant, the kids helped with homework, and the trash taken out. Chunks of time for treatments like radiation and chemo therapy, blood tests, bone marrow biopsies, drug infusion, and for some, major procedures like a stem cell transplant must be normalized to the schedule of life.
Diminished family time forces decisions like retirement from coaching kids’ soccer or quashing a formalized date night with a significant other. Private time is over but for the brief stretch of time between hitting the pillow at bedtime, and the 3 a.m., adrenalin, jacked awakening to a cacophony of dreamed voices shouting mad, clamorous demands.
Comes the dawn, you throw back the warm covers and drive off the phalanx of importunate obligations, rising resolutely to meet each new day. Awareness exists with every conversation, however insignificant it might seem, that one’s being is visible in other eyes, a recognition of a distinct, vibrant presence.
From time to time there happens a moment, alone in the elevator at the close of the business day perhaps, or when sitting apart in the crowded waiting room of the Dana Farber Clinic. Lonely thoughts go to those you love and worry for; those who bring joy to your life and at the same time rely on hearing your voice, responding to the emotional and intellectual significance of that unique sound in their lives.
The anticipation of a stunningly abrupt end to this living vibration and the inexorable fading of your presence from the minds of loved ones, the absolute extinguishing of one’s voice for all time, are terrifying to contemplate as the time draws near. Thus the desperate fight to live for one more day, one more hour or one more breath, a refusal to submit to the dissolution and dispersion of 'you', into the black void of the universe.