Changing the Clocks: Making My Time Worthwhile With Cancer

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A time to reflect on changes we can make while we still have time, despite having cancer.

Illustration of a woman with smooth shoulder-length brown hair, hazel eyes and a pleasant smile.

There are two things I dislike immensely – Daylight Savings and Standard Time. On those two dreaded days, I know I will lose another half hour no matter how you turn the hands of the clock forward or backward. This made me ponder how we look at the time and dates when diagnosed with cancer.

A dear older friend once told me that the older you get, the faster time goes. I couldn’t really fathom how that was possible until I had now become the “older” friend to someone else. Defying the laws of nature, I tell you what she said is absolutely true. 

We easily remember loved ones’ birthdates. But have you become a wiz at remembering these dates: first diagnosis, first chemo, first reaction, first surgery, first radiation, last chemo, last radiation and first recurrence? I can rattle those dates off at my doctor’s visits upon request with no problem and with no hesitation in my senior memory cells.

I was first diagnosed on April 26, 2022, and by the way, I had the image of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland appear in my head. These are his famous words, “I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! No time to say ‘Hello, Goodbye’I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!”

I began to wonder, as I believe most people who get cancer news wonder: how bad is it? Is this curable? How much time do I have? Is it too late to get everything done?

Then I found that all my time was gobbled up with treatments, appointments, side effects, hospitalizations, procedures and more in an endless cycle. Somewhere in that menagerie of crazy schedules, I found some quiet time for myself to think about how much I wanted to accomplish in my life and wondered if I had enough time.

My friend and I had a wonderful long conversation about how he and his father dealt with cancer. My friend said, “There’s one thing about cancer, it gives you more time with your loved one.” He explained that with the knowledge of his dad’s cancer and its slow progression, they were both given a tremendous opportunity to say everything they needed to say to each other. His dad got all his dealings and important documents in order. My friend said the upside to cancer is the long goodbyes that you do not get to have when someone dies suddenly. Before his dad quietly slipped away into the next realm, they both had already said all they wanted to say and made their peace.

His beautiful story helped me leave my pity party earlier than I had planned and start taking some action with my own time. I began doing things from an emotional perspective and a pragmatic one too. When my cancer recurred and mutated, my first question to my doctor was, “What is my expiration date? How much time do I have left?” He said, “We’re not there yet.” So in my head, I figured I better not go around pissing anyone off — not yet anyway.

Have you heard the expression “you will be late for your own funeral”? I found this amusing when I had my first visit to a funeral home to discuss pre-planning. Ironically, it was the director who was late for the appointment. I sat on the bench in front of the funeral home waiting for him, clutching my important papers. I started chuckling to myself thinking, what if some of my friends drive by and see me sitting here? They will probably think, “Oh no! She is worse off than we thought!”

No, I’m not there yet.

I went to see my breast surgeon the other day. I just adore her. As she and I discussed the recurrence of the cancer and the potential outcome, she made me solemnly promise her that when things got bad, I would reach out and ask others for help. She knew my feisty independent spirit too well. She said I was very much like her in that way. We shook hands and I promised. For now, I still have time to get things done and say what I have to say — clocks be damned.

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