Monday, August 26, 2013
If, Not When
I do want to talk about the concept of "If, not when." So I'm going to knock on some wood before I type this to keep the evil eye of cancer away. Wouldn't it suck for me to say that I'm doing well, and then the cancer came back? Knocking on wood here.
So back to if, not when. When I visit my oncologist, her patter includes the concept of "when the treatment stops working." Now I understand that her experience has been that her metastatic breast cancer patients' cancer eventually learns the treatment and then the cancer progresses. But it wasn't until recently that I realized how her constant talk of "when" was affecting me. It was bumming me out.
The Land of When has me thinking ahead to the day when the cancer will progress, how that will result in my disability, my job loss, my eventual pain-filled death. In the Land of When, I am afraid to make plans, I wake up in the middle-of-the-night in a panic, and I watch and wait in fear. And I am tired of living in the Land of When.
Sadly, I don't think doctors realize how much what they say affects a patient. People literally live and die on a doctor's word, demeanor, approach. My oncologist certainly does not mean to harm. Instead, I think she is trying to help. I often joke that she is like the parent who doesn't want her child to be disappointed. "Honey," she says in the mode of an overprotective parent,"I know you really like that boy. But he might not like you, so don't get your hopes up."
But my question is what is wrong with getting my hopes up? What is wrong with expecting the unexpected? What if I'm that very rare patient whose cancer doesn't progress? What if 10 years from now, I am still taking Herceptin and the cancer has remained in check? (Knock on wood.) And what if I live those 10 years in constant fear and panic?
That would suck.
I don't want live in the Land of When. That's like living in Purgatory, and I hear from the Catholics that that's not a pleasant place. I want to live in the Land of If instead. A land where the question is, if the cancer progresses? If I am disabled? If.
That's the land that most people live in. Most people don't go through the day thinking, I will be disabled, I will be in pain, I will suffer. What can it hurt for me to live in the Land of If too? I might be disappointed if the cancer progresses?
I'd rather experience disappointment if the cancer progresses, than to experience that disappointment every day of my life. Even if I only live 30 more days, living in the Land of If sounds much more pleasant than living in fear.
So screw the Land of When. Screw the Land of Fear. Screw the Land of Pain. I refuse to live there any more. I'm moving over to the Land of If. Packing the truck and knocking on wood right now. If. If. If. If.
Damnit. If. I'm moved.
Now to tell my overprotective oncologist.
Also published on CureToday