Hope vs. Acceptance: The Metastatic Cancer See-Saw

Started by Tonia, January 20, 2015
20 replies for this topic
Tonia

Member
558 Posts
Posted on
January 20, 2015
When I was a kid, the playgrounds had the wonderfully simple see-saws that were nothing more than a plank of wood over a pivot point. We would play a game where one person would be all the way down, and the other all the way up.  That child would say,
 
"Farmer, farmer, let me down!"
 
The other would respond,
 
"What will you give me, Charlie Brown?"
 
And then a negotiation would ensue, with poor Charlie trying to get back down to earth. If the Farmer chose to, she could jump off the see-saw, sending Charlie plummeting into the hard cement. Ah, childhood.
 
As a metastatic cancer patient, I ride a see-saw between hope and acceptance. Thankfully, on my current treatment, there are days that feel almost normal, where cancer takes a back seat and it easy to hope that this could go on for some time. Then, of course, there are days that the knowledge of what I am facing leaps into my face and refuses to be ignored. The unrelenting nature of this disease can feel just enormous. Month after month of medications, scans, lines of therapy, side effects, weighing pros and cons of treatments, decisions and difficult choices, marching on into eternity. It's why the battle terminology rubs a lot of stage 4s the wrong way. Fight as we may, our "war" doesn't have a clear victory at the end. This is a marathon that lasts a lifetime, and the finish line is six feet under.

Yeah, acceptance.
 
Much has been written about the danger of false hope, about of the importance of accepting one's diagnosis and prognosis. I think doctors fear we don't understand the gravity of what we are facing, but perhaps they don't fully understand the sensation of sitting at the end of a miles-long see-saw, suspended stories above the earth, waiting to crash down.
 
The cancer has spread to your hip, your ribs, your spine and your liver.
Surgery is not an option.
There is no cure.
 
"Farmer, farmer, let me down!"
 
I have come to believe that hope is vital for those of us living with metastatic cancer. Without hope, the weight of our truth becomes too much to bear. I think there is nothing wrong with hanging on to a ray of hope to beat back the fear, to let you down more gently into acceptance, to, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." That's one doctor that understood the power of hope! Hope allows us to dream of what might be. And dreams allow us to survive this nightmare.
 
Stage 4. Metastatic. Terminal.
Fear that every ache could be progression.
Another friend lost to cancer.
 
"Farmer, farmer!"
 
…and then I meet someone who has been living with this disease for over nine years.
 
… and I learn of a promising clinical trial.
 
… and I meet a stage 4 lung cancer survivor who has been off treatment for two years.
 
And I am lifted back up, Charlie Brown.
 
I am well aware that everyone's case is different, but hope softens the crash of acceptance. Perhaps there is a way to get that see-saw to balance acceptance of this disease with hope for more time here on earth. I strive to find that equilibrium.
 

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.You can follow her blog at "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer."
 
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 20, 2015
When I was a kid, the playgrounds had the wonderfully simple see-saws that were nothing more than a plank of wood over a pivot point. We would play a game where one person would be all the way down, and the other all the way up.  That child would say,
 
"Farmer, farmer, let me down!"
 
The other would respond,
 
"What will you give me, Charlie Brown?"
 
And then a negotiation would ensue, with poor Charlie trying to get back down to earth. If the Farmer chose to, she could jump off the see-saw, sending Charlie plummeting into the hard cement. Ah, childhood.
 
As a metastatic cancer patient, I ride a see-saw between hope and acceptance. Thankfully, on my current treatment, there are days that feel almost normal, where cancer takes a back seat and it easy to hope that this could go on for some time. Then, of course, there are days that the knowledge of what I am facing leaps into my face and refuses to be ignored. The unrelenting nature of this disease can feel just enormous. Month after month of medications, scans, lines of therapy, side effects, weighing pros and cons of treatments, decisions and difficult choices, marching on into eternity. It's why the battle terminology rubs a lot of stage 4s the wrong way. Fight as we may, our "war" doesn't have a clear victory at the end. This is a marathon that lasts a lifetime, and the finish line is six feet under.

Yeah, acceptance.
 
Much has been written about the danger of false hope, about of the importance of accepting one's diagnosis and prognosis. I think doctors fear we don't understand the gravity of what we are facing, but perhaps they don't fully understand the sensation of sitting at the end of a miles-long see-saw, suspended stories above the earth, waiting to crash down.
 
The cancer has spread to your hip, your ribs, your spine and your liver.
Surgery is not an option.
There is no cure.
 
"Farmer, farmer, let me down!"
 
I have come to believe that hope is vital for those of us living with metastatic cancer. Without hope, the weight of our truth becomes too much to bear. I think there is nothing wrong with hanging on to a ray of hope to beat back the fear, to let you down more gently into acceptance, to, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." That's one doctor that understood the power of hope! Hope allows us to dream of what might be. And dreams allow us to survive this nightmare.
 
Stage 4. Metastatic. Terminal.
Fear that every ache could be progression.
Another friend lost to cancer.
 
"Farmer, farmer!"
 
…and then I meet someone who has been living with this disease for over nine years.
 
… and I learn of a promising clinical trial.
 
… and I meet a stage 4 lung cancer survivor who has been off treatment for two years.
 
And I am lifted back up, Charlie Brown.
 
I am well aware that everyone's case is different, but hope softens the crash of acceptance. Perhaps there is a way to get that see-saw to balance acceptance of this disease with hope for more time here on earth. I strive to find that equilibrium.
 

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.You can follow her blog at "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer."
 
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 20, 2015
Good topic and great writing! You're doing great - acceptance or hope or both. I think you've got it! Carry on. Celia
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 20, 2015
as someone who is a fellow stage IV pal (admittedly, it's bowel cancer, and so far, responding well to treatment), this was amazing, and extremely familiar. i often worry that being realistic - open and frank about the fact i will die, and most likely - according to statistics - in the next few years - is bad. but after a chunk of realism, and acceptance, the hope is more potent. the hope feels better knowing the reality of what is facing me, because i know that i might. not that i will, but i might. and that is enough to make the endlessness of chronic illness seem worth it. just don't call it a freaking battle, and i'll be fine. good luck, Tori.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 20, 2015
Thanks for discussing this topic. I too struggle with both words. I'm afraid that if I accept my disease then it will destroy me but I'm afraid of having too much hope. What a tug-of-war!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 21, 2015
Thank you for giving voice to what so many of us feel. I want to share this with my oncology team.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 21, 2015
You really captured the essence of the dilemma with your piece! Thanks for putting it into words. As the caregiver, I've tended to ride the acceptance end of the see-saw while Russ, the survivor, tends to choose hope. We take turns and most of the time seem to balance one another out. Finding the balance as a couple is as challenging as finding it within. The good news is our circumstance really keeps us in the present and gives us a greater appreciation for the joys and gratitude in it.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 21, 2015
Right. Hope is not foolish. Hope and work and what else? Support, research, the sure knowledge that you are you. I would never offer a promise, but I would offer what you already have, a life that is rich. Now, I have to learn those words. It is a up and down marathon. But, at least marathons go on for a long time!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 21, 2015
I am a 16+ years survivor with 2 recurrences under my belt. No I have metastatic breast cancer and am 31/2 years from the diagnosis. I feel so fortunate to still be living a high quality life filled with joy and appreciation. Along with my wonderful doctor and his PA, I know I am well looked after and supported. Friends and family have given love and support that can't be over stated. Each day is a blessing. Some folks have asked me if I wonder why me. I say why not me. It is the luck if the draw. I am not battling cancer I am co-existing with it and hoping to remain in this situation for a very long time to come.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 22, 2015
This is, without doubt, the best written description I have ever read which describes what it is like to walk in my shoes. Thank you, thank you!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
January 22, 2015
A great description of my see-saw with metastatic breast cancer. Hope is what I cling to in these uncertain times. Well done! www.janhasak.com/blog
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