When I was diagnosed with cancer, I so looked for hopeful things. I wanted to know of other cancer survivors who had defied their odds. I wanted to read survivor stories, but not of breast cancer survivors…those stories seemed a dime a dozen. Their cancer was different; it had an 80-90% survival rate. My particular cancer had an only 10% 3 year survival rate. I wanted stories from those who had survived my long odds, and they were few and far between.
I initially wanted the illusive 5 year survival, which used to coincide with the word “cure”, forever done with cancer and oncology appointments and testing. Then I learned that they don’t use the “cure” word anymore, we are only “in remission” at 5 years. At eight years I still see an oncologist, I guess I will forever be a “cancer patient”, my oncology visits won’t ever be over and done. Over time I learned of survivors who had recurrences after the five year mark; that broke my heart, both for them and for me. Would I ever feel safe again, would it ever be over? It seemed not. When I started to feel a little bit safe as an 8 year cancer survivor of my aggressive pathology (was I finally cured?), I was contacted by another 8 year survivor of my particular pathology, which often kills in 2-3 years, who had been cancer free for 8 years also. Then at eight years she had a recurrence of our cancer. Maybe I wasn’t safe even after 8 years?
Funny thing after I was diagnosed, I couldn’t make an appointment for a 6 month dental cleaning. I couldn’t say the words “next year”. I was afraid to buy anything for myself, clothes included, as I had always been frugal and felt myself to be a bad investment. I made no future career plans, vacation plans, I invested nothing in retirement. I felt my future was too uncertain to bank on a “tomorrow”. And part of me felt like assuming a future might jinx me, might even bring on a recurrence?
In the end, I lived long enough (and my weight fluctuated enough) that I needed something new to wear. I bought new clothes. I made tentative future plans, though I still don’t contemplate retirement. I was finally able to commit to a semester of school. That led to a plan to commit to two more years of school, to obtaining two new college degrees. I am contemplating a new career path. I might be assuming too much, but what the heck, I’ll take the risk. Planning for a future, even an uncertain one, is hopeful. And living with hope is a good way to live. Since I started school, I have suddenly felt empowered to contemplate a future. I’ve since painted almost all of the rooms in my house, am remodeling rooms (to enjoy in the future). Maybe we need to take steps towards a future even if it is hard, even if our future seems uncertain?
A woman who read one of my recent posts said she finally bought a camera she wanted but hadn’t purchased earlier as she though in her uncertainty it might be a waste of money. But the purchase in the end gave her a sense of hope.
In hindsight, I’m wondering if assuming a future in light of uncertainty is a good thing to do. If assuming a future might help to make it a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy? Maybe we need to indulge ourselves in hope for a future even when our future is threatened? I think in the end, in a sort of holistic way, it is healthful.