Thursday, October 05, 2006

What, Me Worry?

What does a person with cancer worry about? Everything! Or, at least it seems that way. I started to call this entry "What do people with cancer worry about?" but I realized I can't speak for everyone. Well, I do know some of the things others with cancer worry about, because I read them online. Reading Leroy's blog, and comments there, reading the discussion boards of others with gallbladder or bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), I see that lots of folks are worried about their treatment not being effective, or, if in remission, that their cancer will come back. Many of us with cancer, and our friends and family members, are worrying about suffering, and about dying before our time. Those of us not currently having symptoms of our cancer worry about the symptoms returning. We worry about needing treatment.

I am definitely in that group, worrying and then trying not to worry about twinges in my abdomen, a small ache here, soreness there. Last week, I had indigestion for a few days, and it brought me back to the week before I was hospitalized last May. (I want to say now that I think, logically, that my indigestion was caused because I kept forgetting to take the Protonix prescribed by my doctors, the only drug I'm still on post surgery. Protonix is a "proton pump inhibitor" drug that inhibits the production of stomach acid, and keeps indigestion down.)

So, my indigestion story: Last May I was called to jury duty, and finally sat on a jury. At lunch on Monday, they set us loose, and I went down the street and, for lunch, bought a turkey sub which happened to come with tasty raw onions. Later, I had indigestion. Foolishly, on Tuesday I bought the same lunch, forgetting about the indigestion. Two days later, my urine changed color, and three days after that, my skin began to itch. So, my "story" about my blocked bile duct is that the final straw was caused by those raw onions! Obviously, the cancer had been growing for a while, and I don't "blame" those onions for my blocked bile duct, but the association is there for me. Once my bile duct was blocked, nothing tasted or sat quite right, and I had a rough week before going to the doctor's office. Having indigestion for two days last week reminded me of those days and brought up my fear about a repeat of the days before my hospitalization and then my surgery.

I worry about the future. I worry about teaching next fall, about staying well long enough to continue with my life, to see Lucy move into junior high school, and then high school, to see Nathaniel compete in gymnastics for many more years, to grow out the two front teeth he's lost, and develop into a young man.

I worry about getting a bad CT scan and then needing chemo. Then, I worry about the effects of the chemo, and I try not to worry, because I don't want to anticipate how my body will react. I worry about worrying, and then I try not to worry. Some days since my last clean scan, I have thought only occasionally about cancer, about having cancer, and some days I can't seem to think about anything else.

After I wrote the first part of this, I had a conversation with Patty about this Sunday's sermon. (Patty is a minister, so most weeks, she has a sermon to write for Sunday service.) Our conversation reminded me of the Serenity Prayer, one so central to Alcoholics Anonymous, and one which speaks to so many of us. I think it's what I need to remember when I worry.

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The Courage to change the things I can; and
The Wisdom to know the difference.

I can't change what's happened in my body, but I can change how I feel about it. And when I worry, I can recognize that what I worry about is out of my control, and release it. I also want to remind myself that my goal since my diagnosis has been to live in the moment. When I worry, I project into the future and let go of the present moment. Serenity. Leting go of worry about the future. Being in the moment.

1 comment:

Teresa Hartman said...

Thanks for the reminder to live in the moment, Lynn. Since my radiation (the only treatment I will have) is over, I have to force myself to not think about the ultimate prognosis about my type of cancer - stats only give me about 4 good years. I keep reminding myself that it could be a bus and not cancer that is my end, but in the middle of the night it is hard. Keep up your strength, and thank goodness you have someone close to be with you on this marathon!