Life Defined by Cancer

For the last week or so, I have woken up during the night with hiccups. I have no idea why. Last night was particularly bad, though, as I woke up every hour or so. But during one of those ‘awake’ moments, I had a realization; for the past four months, my life has been defined by my cancer.

Most of my waking moments have been spent dealing with things having to do with cancer; insurance companies, appointments, chemotherapy, chemo side effects, and on and on. Fatigue and other side effects have severely curtailed the activities I thought I would be enjoying in my retirement. I spend time reading blogs of other cancer patients; reading research papers; looking for more promising research. And I have decided that I’m sick of allowing cancer to define my life. I feel as if I’m waking up from a dazed existence that began with those fateful words, ‘you have cancer’, and have continued ever since. No more. I’m taking back my life – I should have done this a while ago but needed the realization of what’s happening to be able to redefine myself.

Cancer isn’t disappearing from my life any time soon. It will always be there in some form, even when I show no evidence of disease. Cancer is insidious and can reappear at any time, or spread somewhere else. What matters now is that I intend to enjoy life more and put cancer on the back burner for now. I will deal with it as I have to, but I no longer want it to define me; I will define it. I have to make some allowances for fatigue, chemo brain, nausea, etc., but I will no longer make them my focus. They are there and will be there for a while. My focus is now on me and my life and my activities. I’m outlining my days based on what I wanted to do for my retirement regardless of what else is going on. I will write. I will go out and take pictures. I will play with our dogs. I will spend time with my partner. I will work in the yard and enjoy my flowers – when I have them. I will define my own life.


17 thoughts on “Life Defined by Cancer

  1. grayconnections says:

    It’s always a balance, isn’t it? Even if we cancer patients attain No Evidence of Disease status, we can’t completely forget about cancer. But if we forget about living while we have cancer, the cancer has already won.

  2. Once again, you make me think about my life and much more. We define ourselves by some things that are not necessary or pull us down. You are right. You are You and what you love. Not your illness. Although you probably needed this time to get where you are now. You needed Time to take in everything what you were suddenly faced with. And now you are ready for something else … I will enjoy walking with you, my friend.

  3. Good for you! I’ve a huge smile on my face!

    Cancer is what it is and it does not define you any more than the fact that you may have stubbed your toe.

    I’m so glad to hear that you are going to put your attention to the things that you enjoy and looked forward to doing in your retirement! You will find that your days will be much more enjoyable when you pay more attention to your dogs, flowers and photographs than to your diagnosis.

    I always say keep fighting but I’m not just saying to keep fighting the cancer, I’m saying to keep fighting for the things which are, or were, most important in your life before you received the diagnosis.


  4. Something’s been nagging at me since I read this wonderful affirmation, and I finally remembered. Years ago – in the 1960s, for heaven’s sake! – Eric Berne wrote a book called “Games People Play”. It wasn’t a nasty and critical book. It really was quite humorous, and my goodness, he had us all pegged pretty well.

    One of the games he wrote about he called “Broken Leg”. The broken leg is metaphorical, of course. It can substitute for an ailing parent, job loss, a spouse who took off with the neighbor lady, lack of a college degree, whatever. The game is recognizable by phrases like, “I can’t go to the dance, because I have a broken leg.”

    it’s the one game that’s stuck with me, because I play it (“I can’t get down to writing that short story, because I have too many other things to do.) And I see people all over who are playing it. I have a friend who enjoys, “I can’t lose weight, because I just don’t have time to exercise and eat properly.”

    The point, of course, is that you’ve made a determination to move away from a certain version of the game as best you can. Cancer can be that broken leg as much as anything else – but it doesn’t have to be.

    Hurrah for you! Now, I just need to tend to my own game-playing!

  5. Ruth – Your sense of determination and taking control of your life is such an inspiration for anyone who thinks that life is out of their control. I have always believed that we may not be able to control the things that occur but we can control how we choose to cope with them. Brava!

  6. Geeky Book Snob says:

    Yes, define your own life. Cancer is not who you are, it is what you are dealing with. I’m inspired by you and your openness on your blog.

Ruth passed away from cancer. Please remove from list

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