When I was a kid–I had to be about 7-8–I was watching a drama on television. I don’t recall if it was a movie or a weekly show, but this one scene has stayed with me ever since. The main character was this woman who was in a wheelchair. She was crying because she used to be a dancer and now she was paralyzed. It was one of those extreme “Why me?” melodramatic moments that, even as a kid, I thought was over the top. Distraught, she decided to end it all. She pulled out a ginormous pair of scissors and stabbed herself in the abdomen. She fell out of the wheelchair and, still conscious and bleeding to death, her legs started to move.*
It was a powerful moment and it hasn’t lost its potency. I’ve gone through some rough spots in my life–as have we all–and eventually this scene would bubble to the top of my thoughts and give me pause to think. Keep going. Don’t throw in the chips yet. I think it’s kind of helped me get through all of this cancer mishegoss. I mean, I don’t live in some kind of “maybe they’ll find a cure” denial phase, but I just figure I take it one day at a time and enjoy what I have now. I’m not all that concerned about cures and living forever because there isn’t one and we won’t, so enjoy the moment. Seems like a good all-around philosophy on a good day, right?
After an October and November where I faced some pretty extreme pain, a compromised professional life, and a dip in my overall quality of life, I’ve now turned a corner. My lower back now gets fatigued at the end of the day, but I don’t have extreme pain anymore. I need the cane less and less–usually at the end of the day. And I’ve started back at the office on a temporary half-time basis–fingers crossed full-time in January. But it’s a bittersweet feeling.
As my oncologist explained, I’m in chronic disease land now. There will be times when I do really well, and there will be times when I’m not doing so well. I find myself coming out of this valley with a real suspicion about feeling better. How long will it last? Will it continue to improve for months and months? Or will I get shut down without notice? Is it okay to tell my colleagues that they can depend on me again? Can my friends and family depend on me? Or what about me? Can I depend on me?
Uncertainty has reached a whole new level. But then again, when were any of our lives ever certain? It just takes something awful in your life–a sick child, a deadly disease, losing someone close to you–that just makes you more aware of it. No more was that E.L. Doctorow quote more meaningful: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
The entire world population lives uncertain lives. What’s going to happen tomorrow?
You just never know.
*And if anyone has any idea what movie or television show that was back in the mid to late 1960s, I’d love to find out!