Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Watching a close family member deal with the early days of cancer treatment is reminding me of cancer's biggest lesson: You Are Not In Control.

Those first few days and weeks were mind-numbing (or head-spinning; or both). You don't have enough information to make decisions, but you have to make decisions immediately. You are tasked with quarterbacking your own medical care though you do not have the lifetime of learning and experience that your doctors have. You must choose between providers without knowing what defines quality, or how it's measured. There is absolutely no way to find a shortcut solution to the months of pain and fear and difficulty that await you; and once treatment starts and you're pumped full of poisons and you're thrown vehemently off balance by nausea or bone pain or sadness or dying cells, there is exactly nothing that you can do that restores that balance until time and healing take their own natural courses.

I have always been a person who saw exactly what I wanted in any situation, and could figure out pretty quickly how to attain it. I am not passive. I confront, I pursue, I accomplish.

But cancer doesn't care about any of this. It laughs at initiative, scoffs at competence. The most painful loss in cancer is the loss of belief in control. Unlike a body part, removed surgically and cleanly under anesthesia, control is ripped away painfully--bloody and ragged and unwilling.

Recovering from cancer restores some of the illusion of control, but I gotta tell you, it is now impossible to revert to the full belief. There are situations happening in my life--I so wish I could share them, but for so many different reasons, and to protect so many different people, I simply can't. But I face these difficult situations and all I can see is that every alternative is fraught and imperfect, and there is exactly nothing that I can do to sidestep all pain and trouble. Perhaps I'd have learned this lesson without cancer. But I learned it with cancer, and life just keeps reviewing the lesson.


Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree, especially with your third paragraph.

Anonymous said...

There, I commented.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

But, keeping with my first comment, the most important thing I have to say--in fact, the one thing I'd better not forget to say--is LAOTIORIEUTY.