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Coping With Cancer By Busting Clutter


What had eluded my wife and I, and not without great consequence, was the damage cancer had inflicted upon our apartment. Years and years of trauma, PTSD triggers, and bone-chilling memories had snuck in and festered around us like cockroaches.

I usually spend my weekend mornings enjoying a nice, strong cup of coffee while catching up on a television show or my latest book – which is accompanied by some great tunes, of course. Kori, my wife, likes to sleep in and I’ll have the living room to myself, unless Penny Lane, our furry, 10-pound poodle decides to pop out and crash the party.

I’ve always cherished my mornings; the day is full of potential and there’s not yet quite a rush to get to all the responsibilities. It’s only morning, after all.

On a recent weekend, I remember brimming with a sense of delight. The night before, Kori and I rearranged our living room. Clutter had been removed, the overall vibe had been brightened, lightened and minimized. This was a big deal. And oh baby, as the light poured in through our new curtains, the significance of what we’d accomplished, and overall impact struck me like lightening.

My nervous system felt it, and the smile resting happily upon my face represented it. It was one of those moments that sticks with you.

For years, Kori and I have been struggling to keep our heads afloat along my cancer journey. When it comes to survival in this arena, people tend to first think of treatment like chemo, radiation and surgeries. Then there’s the physical and mental/emotional therapists. They all play a role and I’ve found each a necessary cog in the wheel along my own quest for wellness. But what had eluded us, and not without great consequence, was the damage the chronic illness had inflicted upon our very own apartment. Years and years of trauma, PTSD triggers, and bone-chilling memories had snuck in and festered around us like cockroaches.

Whenever Kori would come home from work to see me resting on the couch, she’d be haunted by images of me laying that same way in a neutropenic state. Any time my feet touched the carpet, it reminded me of the bomb once dropped when I’d stood there, learning of my first recurrence. The chair by the computer desk — where I sat receiving bad news regarding scans. The whole living room mess amounted to a combination of our run-down, exhausted mental states manifesting into actual physical clutter, roaming together with the toxic ghosts of emotional baggage.

Why didn’t we get to this sooner? It’s a fair question, and one that I’m sure our friends and family grew tired of asking. We knew that our apartment was causing us stress and understood what had to be done, but execution proved difficult with the all-consuming drain cancer takes on seemingly every resource at your disposal.

Whenever the rare, free moments of down time did peak out to greet us, we had nothing left to give. It became a cruel joke.

As I’ve written recently, you still must maintain belief. Throughout the crippling fear, endless discouragement and overwhelming frustration, you simply must feel around for the dim light flickering inside and stoke the hell out of it. You’ve got to, more than anything else, keep that faint sense of hope alive — it’s your only hope.

And in our case, I’ve recently been blessed to experience encouraging health results. With that came a breath of fresh air that propelled us forward like the perfect wave. The occasion and inner strength finally presented themselves and allowed us to regain control of our lives and trust in a future without constant, lingering danger.

Hopefully, we’re just getting started.

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