It Is 2018 and I Still Have Cancer


My New Year's resolutions include never becoming complacent.

My alarm clock signals another day has begun. I have some medication waiting to be swallowed or injected. There is a brand new calendar for 2018 sitting on my desk; one I've specially chosen with photos of Japanese gardens and Buddha statues and simple positive quotes from positive people.

And on it, today's date is circled in red to remind me of yet another round of chemotherapy, or radiation. Perhaps it's just a check-up with my oncologist, or a meeting with my support group. Either way, it's suddenly 2018 and I still have cancer.

It's easy to grow tired of this disease. Certainly there are days when I don't think about my breast cancer. But the amount of time and energy I am willing to invest in it changes often, as does my level of resolve and my determination to be free of it one day. All of this is simply a process of self-preservation and it's not a routine reserved only for me.

In talking with fellow cancer survivors over the years I have found that this sequence of daily reminders and memories and drudgery is commonplace. We adapt of course. We learn to watch and to monitor this cunning intruder as it probes the periphery of our bodies. And that requires a lot of energy when there may not be much to give.

But it's perfectly OK to be fed up with the whole business of staying alive from time to time. After all, life didn't used to be "work." I would wake up, head out the door and jump into the rhythm of living another day in what I supposed would be a very long string of experiences, becoming years and then turning into decades.

Cancer takes away some of our choices, but it doesn't leave us without alternatives. It often reminds me of a chess game, which I don't play very well, but at least I can look out across the board, see the pattern of squares offering so many untried options, and making my best guess at the next favorable move for my knight.

The biggest obstacle to fighting the cancer battle, if you choose to see it that way, might be complacency. We grow tired and then we might feel defeated and after that we acquiesce to the momentum of our cancer.

But conceding can never be a component in our master plan to rid ourselves of cancer. It seems that we only need a string of blank squares on our calendar for the New Year; extended moments when our attention is centered on living and not just surviving, and we can once again muster up the strength to make this best year of our lives.

Your New Year's resolutions might include getting more exercise, finishing that neglected project, losing weight or spending more time with your kids. If you have cancer as I do, my greatest wish for all of us as the new year begins is that we allow ourselves to feel exasperated, demoralized, disappointed and even angry about our disease from time to time.

But never, ever complacent.

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