Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1000 - Life is a chronic condition

I think it's time to shift perspectives.

Receiving news that I am now a Stage IV metastatic colorectal cancer patient, after having many months of a "no evidence of disease" status, has been really hard for me. I keep looking at the prognoses and thinking about so many other MCRC patients before me whose outcomes frighten me. Nobody is talking about a cure anymore, although occasionally the surgical option is described as the only "curative option" available.

But today is 1000 days into my "unwanted journey" and despite the set backs and problems, that's still 2 3/4 years since my original diagnosis. Apart from a cure, the next best option is to consider my cancer as a chronic condition that merits occasional aggressive therapy. I can't say that the prospects of more surgery and chemotherapy are attractive, but I have to admit that I haven't been treated for cancer since late September in 2006. I'm feeling pretty good (although I do require more rest then before treatment) and there are those days when my digestive system really does act up. But the bottom line is I'm working full days and haven't had even a single sick day off of work since I started my new job on December 3rd, 2007.

In other words, life with cancer has become a new normal for me. Yes, my life expectancy is shorter than I would like. Yes, I'm feeling older and less resilient than I would like. But I can do a lot of things, some of them really well! I'm heading into a period when I know I'll feel very weak and unable to do many things, but I still have good reason to think I'll survive this next stage in the treatment process.

My cancer is chronic. But so too is life. Death is inevitable and decline is irreversible anyway. So why not think of this next part of the journey as simply another challenge, another opportunity to grow and to make the most of the situation. It may not be simply a matter of "putting on a happy face", but perhaps it is simply a matter of grace and grit.

That's something I can do.

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