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Cancer Can Feel Like a Ticking Time Bomb

How do we cope with the feeling that our body has somehow betrayed us and we have a ticking time bomb inside of us?
PUBLISHED August 27, 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.
When a person is first diagnosed with cancer, he or she is numb. We all know people who have this awful disease, but can’t believe it is actually happening to us!

The mind goes into a shock that naturally protects us from totally comprehending how much our lives have changed. This same shock or numbness protects us when we lose a loved one, have an accident or injury, lose a job or a host of other unexpected tragedies.

Gradually we begin to comprehend how our lives and those of our families and people who love us really have been altered. The chemo, radiation, tests; surgeries all change our perception of our body forever.

Eventually we settle down and we may go into NED (no evidence of disease). We may experience remission or undergo chronic treatments until they no longer work. All of this can occur over months or even years.

I have been battling my MDS for 9 years now, and am thrilled to be in remission. I have been worried it is only temporary because the doctors have warned me it is. My life is indeed bittersweet. I have gradually learned to stay in the present, and try not to worry about the future.

However - and it is a big however - if you ask me to be brutally honest there are times I feel like my body is a ticking time bomb. I know there are those little but mighty cells in my bone marrow cancer that will turn on me and eventually weaken my body until I pass. I don’t dare to say this to my friends or relatives, who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer. On rare occasions when I mention the strong possibility of a shortened life, I get the retort, “Well I had a friend who died of a brain aneurysm or a heart attack immediately – we all can go through that.”

Not my people – this is different. It is one thing to suddenly die and it is an awful experience for the people around them. It is another thing to have a doctor sit down and tell you there is a potentially fatal disease lurking in your body and, in some cases, to be given a time limit.

Yes – we are all dying each day from the minute we are born.  None of us get out of this life alive. But it is hard to be chronically ill and feel like your body is going to turn on you – with any disease – like a ticking time bomb.

The positive about this is, if there was a time to have cancer, it is now. With the constant new medications, the bombs are slowed down and sometimes even stopped. How great is that? New treatments are being researched every day.

The other benefit I see to having this ticking time bomb? I appreciate every single minute of life and intend to make the most of it. And we survivors have learned to do that. Even if our physical bodies don’t last, hope is eternal!
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