Cancer Treatment Delays and the Art of Patience


Two-time cancer survivor discusses the art of waiting, be it for treatments, rechecks or test results.

Patience. The art of waiting. What? I have to wait? How long? I am not a patient person and we are not a patient society. We want everything yesterday, or at the very least, right now. Even when we have been reassured that there is time before treatment decisions need to be finalized or time to get everything scheduled, we just are not comfortable waiting. We want to resolve our impatience, get answers, begin or complete treatment, or do whatever is required to know results or to move forward. What we are not taught is that life is still happening while we wait, and that lots of life gets lived while waiting. I want to get better at waiting well.

My breast cancer and melanoma treatments, with all of the biopsies and additional surgeries, comprise part of my practice to date in the art of waiting. Still, I have this lump of fear and stress in the middle of my chest as I wait for my prophylactic double mastectomy scheduled for a few months from now. For me, it is a long wait. I will practice my patience. I will work on it. Life is still happening right now, and I am determined to enjoy it, darn it!

I work to live in the present rather than to regret the past or worry about or be impatient for the future. Those worries and regrets are not productive, and it is not healthy to let them eat away at me. As a two-time cancer survivor who is not facing her third cancer but instead a preventative surgery, I choose to live life now. Well…at least I am working on and practicing how to get better at doing exactly that. How do you learn patience in a culture that does not seem to value it?

Ah, the art of patience and dealing with this feeling in the middle of my chest. I can choose tasks that slow me down, like things that take time to accomplish. I can even be kind to myself. I can regroup as many times as I need to move forward with each day between now and the surgery. Breathe. Fold laundry. See friends. Focus on my family. Put away groceries. Work at my job. Stay in the moment. Appreciate the moment. Life will go on, even with my activated cancer worry brain.

What do I tell myself? I say: I will get through. I trust in God. All of this is part of life. I pull myself onward. I remember that I am allowed. Even though Cancer is at the front of my brain right now, I will not give it more fuel. I will look in another direction today. One day at a time.

I can reach out to friends. I can connect with fellow survivors. I can actively try to distract myself by staying busy in the immediate moment. There are options to cope with impatience. I have to work to not always focus on cancer fears. It is possible to have faith and to be worried. As I have said before, my therapist says it is healthy to hold two conflicting ideas in the same space. They can both be true, and I can choose which one I want to focus on at any given moment.

If I fail, tomorrow is another day. Little by little, I can get better at this. It is called practice. It is called logging the time and effort to eventually improve. I will grow my patience muscle and it will, with time, get stronger. It doesn't have to be done alone. Others have been in these shoes and understand. Finally, when the day is over, I got through it. Tomorrow is a fresh chance to improve in the art of waiting.

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