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Cancer Survivors Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop
December 13, 2018 – Jane Biehl, Ph.D.
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Cancer Survivors Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop

I try so hard to be positive, but in the back of my mind, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for my blood counts to worsen, for the results of the next bone marrow biopsy to be haywire, for the chemo with its side effects to be administered, intensified or changed.
PUBLISHED December 13, 2018
Jane has earned three advanced degrees and had several fulfilling careers as a librarian, rehabilitation counselor and college teacher. Presently she does freelance writing. Her articles include the subjects of hearing loss and deafness, service dogs and struggling with cancer. She has been a cancer survivor since 2010.

She has myelodysplastic syndrome, which is rare, and would love to communicate with others who have MDS.
“I am waiting for the other shoe to drop,” is a popular expression I have heard many times. I thought I understood this saying, but I truly didn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer typically isn’t treated the way I originally thought, which was a straight line from diagnosis to treatment to cure. I’m not sure why I expected this, because life isn’t a straight line. Events may occur smoothly, and then out of nowhere, we are hit with an illness, a death of someone we love, a job loss, the loss of our home from fire or storms or another catastrophe.

It took me many years to discover that eventually everyone has their straight line stopped. I have friends and family who seemed to lead “charmed” lives until something unexpected happens to turn their world inside out and upside down.

I know all of this intellectually, but in reality, with an incurable blood cancer, I find myself thinking of this quote. I try so hard to be positive, but in the back of my mind, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for my blood counts to worsen, for the results of the next bone marrow biopsy to be haywire, for the chemo with its side effects to be administered, intensified or changed. And for the eventual outcome (unless there is some miracle clinical trial) where I will not ultimately survive.

I have promised my readers that I will always try to be honest. In spite of my positive attitude, way in the back of my brain, I find myself waiting for that other shoe to drop. I am facing another bone marrow biopsy soon, and I am admittedly nervous.

However, I have learned something else from my cancer. I know that the other shoe will drop. It is not a matter of if, but when. A wise friend once told me I couldn’t change my circumstances, but I could change my attitude towards my circumstances.

This, my friends, is the only thing in life any of us have control over. I can ruin my upcoming holiday season worrying about what the New Year will bring and allow those lingering doubts, which I seldom voice but do think about, to ruin the here and now. If I do this, I can’t enjoy the present with the celebrations, gift giving and precious time with friends and family.

Or I can tell myself sternly that worrying will not change the outcome, but instead make everything worse. I can put off my worries until there is something to actually worry about. It may very well be the next bone marrow biopsy will show little change and I am free for the next six months to stop being concerned.

Yes, there are those of us who are cancer survivors and constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall. But we don’t have to flap around like Chicken Little being scared. We don’t have to look up in the sky watching for the shoe. We can center ourselves, dig in and enjoy what is happening on the ground. That is more fun anyway!
 
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