Archive for September, 2009

26
Sep
09

Back in the Game

I’m not a sports fan, so using a sports analogy is not really second nature, and anyway, probably falls under the heading of cliche. But I definitely feel as if the last two years have been one big sideline experience.

Or I could use the science fiction cliche of living in an alternate universe for two years, and I just found my way back through a wormhole to real life.

If I wanted to be really cruel, I would use that horrible deus ex machina of feeling like it all has been a dream (sometimes a nightmare) – of course, then I’d have to end with “and I woke up, and it was all a dream”. Sadly, it hasn’t been.

I still get tired, I still have insomnia (but then, I did *before* cancer, so is it just my normal insomnia, or the insomnia that they claim comes from being a cancer patient? And does it matter? Insomnia sucks, either way.), I still have days where I feel sad or out of sorts; but for the most part, I am living life again, instead of watching it through the lens of a cancer patient.

The cancer patient glasses have many different view settings, and not every patient uses all of them.

Some wearers do the rose-colored glasses, and view cancer as the best thing that has ever happened to them, because it has led them to rearrange their priorities, appreciate life and loved ones more, and become more spiritual, compassionate, and altruistic. And for some people, it does work that way; perhaps perceiving that it does all this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and thinking it does make it so.

A polar-opposite pair of lenses is the “grass-is-greener” spectacles. “Why did *I* get cancer? Look how happy everyone else is. How can they be so happy when I’m sick? If only <fill in the blank with healthy lifestyle choices you didn’t make, the name of the deity who could have prevented this, the person whose genetics doomed you to this, the stress or event that might have triggered the disease, the person whose love would have led you on another life path and this never would have happened, the way you could have avoided the environmental pollutants that have caused this, the government who should have regulated said pollutants better, etc.>”. Oftentimes, these glasses include self-blame, or simply envy that others are free of the scourge.

Rather than being peaceful, blue lenses are all about sadness and grief. Although many days may bring simple low spirits, it is easy to find depression, despair, and hopelessness looking through blue.

One of the worst are the blackout lenses – all one can see through these is fear. Fear of treatment; fear of recurrence or metastases; of pain; of loss; of abandonment, bankruptcy, and incapacity; and fear of death. Sometimes, fear becomes a way of life. For some, only briefly; for others it stretches on long after one finishes treatment. Even good things can cause fearfulness – one might fear seeing other people because they’ll be kind and make you cry.

Red is anger – pretty clear what one sees here. “I have cancer.”

But most lenses are mirror shades, only they’re mirrored on the inside, so you only see yourself (and perhaps a smoky image of things on the outside). This view can cause many reactions in cancer patients. How am I going to get through this? My life will never be the same. I’m disfigured. My cancer is worse than yours. Bids for attention. Grasping for everything people will give you – pity, support, whatever. The martyr syndrome.

Sometimes one even realizes that the view is skewed, but it doesn’t change the fact that you see what you see.

How much harder it must be for someone who has metastases or a terminal diagnosis! To be able to come through the ordeal with the knowledge that you’re cured but with a chance of recurrence; and to take off the cancer glasses and be able to go back to life, rewritten, perhaps, but still “normal”, is something to be proud of.

But for someone for whom the “new normal” is to live their life with ongoing treatment and an unsure future, is there life without the glasses? To deal with it at all is something to be proud of; and it is our job, as their friends and family, to be on the outside of whatever lenses they wear, providing a pool of love and normalcy for them to dip into when they need it, and can handle it.

Of course, that is true for even us curable cancer patients – I had an ocean of love and normalcy around me due to all the friends and family who supported me and let me know they were there even when things were difficult. I would not have had the courage to remove the cancer lenses without them. I can only hope to be part of such a source for those I love who need it in their turn.

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