I’m writing this article because of a request from a reader.
I am a cancer survivor, but, thankfully, that is not so unusual anymore. As my dear sister-in-law says, we belong to that exclusive club that no one wants membership in. Yes, I know that’s ending a sentence in a preposition, but I don’t care. You see, that’s one of the perks of surviving cancer. Little things just don’t seem that important anymore.
I was lucky enough to have a kind of cancer that was very slow growing. It took many doctors, some prayer, and 2 years to find out what was causing my pain. It’s not a common cancer and I don’t feel comfortable giving details, but let’s just say there are no pink ribbons and races for the cure for my type.
My husband arranged his work schedule so he could take me to my treatments at the city hospital about 30 miles away. Just as this was getting more difficult to arrange he was laid off. Well, his entire division was eliminated; you know how that goes. It was fortunate for us in that now he had the time to not only drive me to the treatments, but he could take care of me at home as I become more and more bed-ridden.
I had never watched American Idol before, but when it’s second season started I was on the couch all the time I wasn’t in bed. The tv was on as a kind of background noise as I drifted in and out of sleep. After having the news channel or weather channel on in the daytime, American Idol became a way to mark time in those weeks. It was more pleasant than just the news.
Fast forward to 5 months later and I was finished with treatments. I was weak, tired, but happy to be done with those daily hospital visits. As I gained strength and my mind began to clear (yes, there is such a thing as chemo brain) I noticed a strange emotion. Yes, I was overjoyed that I was alive and done with treatments. But I was also noticing that I was annoyed when anyone complained about small things. How can such things be important? I have adjusted to being back to “normal life” in that I know ordinary tasks must be done, but I still have that impatience. That saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s all small stuff” must have come from a cancer survivor.
I do look for ways to have fun more than before I had cancer. Life is precious and every day is a reason to celebrate. I still like to plan for the future, but I think I cherish those little moments more than before the cancer. One of my favorites recently was when my daughter and daughter-in-law and I were at a family dinner. We were sitting together at one end of a big table with the extended family all there. We started laughing about the dessert coffee we three had ordered as a kind of guilty pleasure. It might sound like nothing, but to me it was a moment of comraderie that was one of the highlights of the holiday season. A gift.
At first, my husband had planned to find another job after I was better, since he was only 61. At 62 he took his social security benefits. He was lucky to get a pension from his job, the only place he’d ever worked. ( Those situations are rare these days.) Our youngest child was in college for 3 more years and that was a drain on our finances as well. As time went by, it seemed we could get by without my husband getting a new job. Plus at his age it was difficult to find a job. We had always been frugal, but during those years we got our black belts in frugality. When our youngest graduated from college it was like getting a huge raise! We’ve been enjoying our retirement, spending our money on things that make us happy, like travel, and most of all spending time with family and friends.
If a serious illness comes into your life it can shake your world to its core. But with a loving support system you can come through it to better days. Even if you don’t have a loving support system, you will get through it and come out of that tunnel (because it feels like a tunnel) into the light of day again. And when you get impatient with those who haven’t been through that tunnel, try to realize what you have is a gift, the gift of knowing what is important!