CANCER CHANGES EVERYTHING – AND NOTHING

I was watching a television show I have mentioned in some other articles.  The show “New Amsterdam” features a medical director of a hospital who has cancer. He talks honestly about his cancer journey.  One of the statements he made to a colleague was, “Cancer changes everything – and nothing.”

     I stared at the screen and knew exactly what he meant.  The day we are diagnosed the world stops.  Everything is in slow motion.  We watch our world change more than we ever thought possible.  We go to work, we brush our teeth, and we take a shower like before.  We wait what seems like forever for tests to get completed and treatment plans drawn up while we go on like robots.

     Inside, we are screaming, I am sick, I have cancer, and I may die. What will happen with chemo and surgery and radiation? Will I lose my hair, will I throw up, and will I be bedridden? These thoughts pelt us like hail hitting on a car windshield.  Everything has changed for us.

     When we go to the waiting room for our treatments or appointments with our doctors, we look around and watch others going through the same emotions.  Some have coverings on their bald heads.  Others are softly crying.  Others are talking to their family with sad expressions on their faces. Still others have shunts in their arms or chests.  We wonder if we look like everyone else in the room.  Some people look normal, but maybe they are relatives or not yet diagnosed.

     Stepping outside of the hospital world is different.  People are driving/ working/walking/laughing/talking/watching their kids and doing what they do every single day.  Nothing has changed.   Initially, it seems a bit unfair.  If our world has turned upside down and inside out and topsy turvy - why is life still going on for others?  Yet, it is a relief as we realize we may join that world again after the treatments.

     I will go one step further and say the death of a loved one, a horrible divorce, a bankruptcy, a storm that destroys our house also can leave us shaken and not knowing how anyone can go on.

     This doctor, although fictitious, has hit the nail on the head.  Cancer changes everything.  Our whole worldview is different and our bodies will never be the same again.  We know how vulnerable we are and are more grateful for the little things.

     Yet it changes nothing.  The sun comes up in the morning and sets in the evening.  The seasons change and we wear different clothing to accommodate the weather.  The earth is still rotating on its axis.  Life does go on and we can find comfort in that.