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Cancer and Life are not Linear Journeys
May 20, 2019 – Jane Biehl, Ph.D.

Cancer and Life are not Linear Journeys

One of the hardest things to realize about cancer is that it rarely goes in a straight line.
PUBLISHED May 20, 2019
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.
Did you believe when you were young that life went in a straight line?

I sure did and was very naïve. I had my life all mapped out for me. I would go to college, get my master’s in library science and get a job as a librarian. I planned down the road to find my prince, get married and have 2.5 children. (In those days of zero population growth we were told to have no more than two children). I would be a librarian for thirty years and retire with a good pension like my parents did. I told a friend during my last year in college that I would get a job, a car, an apartment and go to Europe. She cautiously told me this might take a long time.
Yeah – right. Woody Allen formulated the quote “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
Now at the age of 68, I look back and laugh along with God. Life did not go in a straight line, but in many ways it went better with all my ups and downs.
I was a librarian for 19 years before I made a career switch to rehabilitation counselor because I wanted to work with people with disabilities. I taught college for over thirty years as an adjunct, which I never knew I would enjoy so much! When I physically was no longer able to teach, I became a writer. What is special is that each career segued into the next one.
I didn’t get to Europe until I was 40, but I have traveled to several places since. I never met the love of my life, but I have worked with children in most of my careers. I figured since most of my relatives lived to be old I would too – until I was diagnosed with cancer.
I also thought cancer was a straight line. I thought people underwent chemo, radiation or other treatments and either got better or did not. I was so wrong – what made me think that cancer is any different than life?
I was given a time limit to live and am now past that. I never knew one could be on chemo for as long as eight years. Just when I thought I would always be on chemo, I have been off for almost a year. I have changed cancer treatments from oral chemo to Vidaza shots to Procrit shots and will probably undergo different treatments in the future. I have visited the cancer center where I receive treatment ranging as many as five times a month to every six weeks. I have felt terrible, sick, better, good, but always fatigued.
My emotions have run from elated to depressed, sad, fearful and anxious, angry and happy – sometimes all in the same week!
Isn’t this like life? Our cancer journeys don’t usually go from diagnosis to treatment to cure, but back and forth just like life!
We cancer survivors cannot expect a straight line. Sometime all we can do is hang on for a turbulent, confusing, crazy ride!
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