A cancer diagnosis brings with it a world of fears, but living with advanced/terminal cancer puts the other fears into perspective.
Tori Tomalia is a two-time cancer survivor currently living with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer since May of 2013. Her first cancer experience was childhood osteogenic sarcoma, for which she received chemotherapy and curative surgery, and had been cancer-free for over 20 years prior to the lung cancer diagnosis. Along with cancer, Tori juggles life as a mom of 3 small children, a wife, a theatre artist, writer and lung cancer awareness advocate.
The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn
There is no future
There is no past
Thank God this moment's not the last
There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret — or life is yours to miss.
No other road
No other way
No day but today
- Lyrics from"No Day But Today" (from the musical "Rent")
Scan time is looming large on the horizon, so in addition to trying to take my own advice (see "10 Tips for Coping with Scanxiety
"), I have been ruminating on the meaning of fear.
Why is scan time so scary? First, there are lots of little fears that flit around my mind, such as...
I'm scared the IV will hurt.
I'm scared the contrast drink will make me throw up.
I'm scared that I might have some weird allergic reaction to the injected contrast dye.
I'm scared that when they inject the dye and it makes you feel like you wet your pants, that I might actually wet my pants.
I'm scared that I might breathe in when I'm supposed to hold my breath, or breathe out when I'm supposed to breathe in.
I'm scared that I might reach to scratch my nose when I am supposed to be holding still in the scanner.
But, of course, there is the one fear, the real fear, the one really big
fear: The scan might show that my medicine has stopped working.
I used to do partner acro, and my instructor described me as "fearless." While it was a nice compliment, it was completely inaccurate. I certainly was not without fear, it was just that my desire to learn and push myself was much greater than my fear of getting hurt. The thrill of flying was much stronger than the fear of falling.
Now, my fears have shifted. Everything boils down to the one big fear that the medicine has stopped controlling my cancer. If that happened, it would mean pursuing new treatment and facing new side effects. It would mean that one of my limited options is used up. It would mean facing the fear that my time on earth is much, much shorter than I would like it to be and that this disease will take me away from the life and the people I love so much.
I was never "fearless," but now I do have less fear
. I have less fear about little things, less fear about speaking my mind, less fear about taking chances and less fear about what other people might think of me. I have one giant fear that trumps everything else and that puts it all in perspective.
My drive to get everything I can out of this life is much greater than all the little fears. We only get this one life (I think), so it only makes sense to grab on tight and get all the living you can out of it.
Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to CancerLand. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
Blog: "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer" lil-lytnin.blogspot.com