Friday, October 28, 2011
Before the Milk Spoils - Surviving the Drain is Just the Beginning
While battling cancer for 5 years, enduring many surgeries and finding the delicate balance between health and happiness was certainly the struggle of my life, the battle really began the day I was told I was cancer-free.
Sounds crazy, right? Perhaps, but it's true. You suddenly know firsthand how much you stand to lose, you worry about a re-occurrence and you begin your mission to make a difference in the world. After all, who wants their funeral to be full of people attending only out of obligation? (My biggest issue)
The more time that passes, these fears/goals/obsessions become more mild but they are forever rooted in our psyche. I will catch myself on occasion getting teary-eyed while looking at my sons. I have so much more to lose now than I did as a single, childless 19-year-old. The "what ifs" continue to haunt me.
I'm reminded of this side of cancer on days like today; the side nobody speaks of because we're programmed to merely express gratitude for surviving. An oncologist friend of mine and fellow cancer survivor found out he has the advanced stages of esophageal cancer recently. A man who has a beautiful wife and children, dedicates his career to helping those with cancer, regularly supports the American Cancer Society, conducts mission trips to Haiti and makes an immensely positive impact in the world. All the things we're supposed to do following the "happily ever after" ending of cancer survival, right?
Except, it doesn't seem so RIGHT. In fact, it seems so backwards that it makes my head spin. I'm a street corner hope-pusher and a firm believer in a positive outlook but the reality is that sometimes ignorance IS bliss. Before a cancer diagnosis, we live freely (although frivolously) but without the reality of an unknown expiration date. After a cancer diagnosis, we are like that borderline jug of milk that you have to sniff a few times, wondering if it's still good or if it's ready to dispose down the drain.
I guess all I can do is hope we complement one more bowl of Cheerios or provide one more splash in a warm cup of coffee. But, I'm lactose intolerant. Kind of ironic.