[cancer] Coping with the future

I haven’t said very much about the cancer lately. I haven’t needed to. Healthwise, other than some weight control issues apparently due to chemo-induced shifts in my metabolism, for the moment I’m fine. Just had a general physical wherein my fasting glucose measured very well, my mediocre cholesterol levels were improved, thyroid function checked out good, blood pressure was quite reasonable, and so forth. The forthcoming scans in April are entirely a game of probabilities, as with so much of oncology. The odds there are slightly in my favor, and almost entirely out of my control.

All I can do is live my life.

And so I have been doing so. I’ve really emphasized spending time with old friends and new, and have been getting out more in multiple senses of that term. It’s been a lot of fun. “Fun” being a commodity much absent from my life last year.

But my view of the future is very distorted in some unhealthy ways. I continue to wrestle with a failure to effectively cope with my cancer fears.

The ground state of my personality is a somewhat buoyant optimism. On a day to day basis, I have almost entirely recovered that. But at the moment, I have a bad case of short-timer attitude regarding my future. I feel overwhelmed by the possibility of going through another round of surgery and chemo. I feel overwhelmed by my long-term survival statistics. It’s not the sharp end of the medical stick that’s bothering me, it’s the cloud of probabilities at the other end of that stick.

Like many people and most writers, I have an objective observer in my head. It often manifests as something approaching a literal narrative voiceover. Sometimes I feel like I’m in my own private fanfic of Wild Kingdom. “The common or garden variety American science fiction writer approaches the potentially receptive female. Notice the courting display of aloha shirt and witty remarks, designed to catch her attention long enough to overcome the initial evaluation of ‘badly-dressed middle-aged fat guy.'”

On the cancer stuff, my objective observer is not the least bit confused. I’m quite clear that while I need to live in the moment — don’t we all? — I also need to keep a weather eye on the future. Everything in my life, from parenting to my books to my professional existence to my social interactions, extends indefinitely into that future. There’s nothing magic about April and the scans, it’s just a thing I will do. Whatever the results are, I will process them and take the appropriate measures.

My objective observer is having a heck of a time telling that to my emotional self. I’m living with the mild cognitive dissonance of simultaneous clear-eyed acceptance and controlled panic.

Of course I am finding my way through. That day to day optimism is seeping downward like an oil spill into groundwater. I am tired of this difficult emotional space, even bored with it — a very good sign, I know from experience. And I resent the power I have granted cancer over my life in allowing it to dominate my thinking.

Taking that power back is not as simple as deciding to take it back. Yet, in the end, it is.

Cancer is not for sissies. Also, I don’t recommend it as a hobby.

2 thoughts on “[cancer] Coping with the future

  1. Jim Crider says:


    I’m happy to read here that you’re not letting that sumbitch take any more. I’m sure you’ll get to a point where you realize the fear is, if not completely gone, at least beaten back into a “normal” state.

    PS: The Wild Kingdom bit? Pure comedy gold, man.

  2. Oh, man; I loved the Wild Kingdom! What you need now is a stunt-Jim to leap out of the helicopter and into the river…

    (In the I hope this is helpful and new department) You know, reading about the cottony probability end of the stick reminded me of the bits I’ve read about living with AIDS in the mid-90’s. I’d say, “Go rent the movie *Jeffrey* (it’s got Patric Stewart in it)”… except… oh well, rent it anyway and laugh at the “phone sex” scene.

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