Cancer 3

A common refrain on my Facebook cancer support groups is that the first months after diagnosis can be among the most stressful. You know the least about the actual extent of your condition, but you simultaneously know for sure that your life is going to change a great deal, starting now.

It is also the first time for grieving.

In the worst case it is grieving actual mortality, the very real threat of the end. But even in a relatively low impact diagnosis like my (current) one, there is grief. It is the grief of lost futures, lost plans, lost self-image.

I am a person who runs and climbs and rows and goes on long walks and travels and teaches and speaks publicly. At least, I was. If all goes according to plan, there will eventually be a new me, who does some or many of those things. Maybe not all of them anymore, there is no predictability or control.

Last Christmas I took my family to Rome over the holidays. “No time like the present!” I said, little knowing how apt that would be. I’m glad for everything I have done with my family. Climbing mountains, scaling cliffs, travelling afar, and even the predictable summer trips to the beach.

Some of these adventures were quite hard, and in the moment I wondered to myself “what the heck were you thinking?” In the end, I regretted none of it, and we all have lifelong memories we share.

Before she was killed by cancer, Amy Ettinger wrote:

I’ve always tried to say yes to the voice that tells me I should go out and do something now, even when that decision seems wildly impractical … Money always comes back, but if you miss out on an experience, the opportunity may never come back.

I am trying to pack as much climbing, and eating out, and walks to the cafe, and evening date nights into my life as I can, before the start of treatment. It’s too late for anything big, but these are little things that bring me joy that may become harder to do, after.

My surgery date is set now, and the procedure will mark an abrupt decline and then the start of a long slow climb back up to whatever “new normal” my body can fashion from my reconfigured plumbing. Some people have great results, some people have terrible ones.

As always, there’s no way to know, the grey area is omnipresent, which is perhaps why I sound so morose.

Talk to you again soon, inshalla.