After getting our first good test results (ever) two weeks ago I went into a pretty deep depression.
Getting the good news sent me into an emotional nose dive that I still find myself fighting against succumbing to it.
That’s right, I was sad to find out that I might not be dying as soon as I thought.*
It took me a while to understand what was going on–why would good news bring about such negative emotions? Why was I feeling so lost at a moment when I should have been in the throes of elation? It just didn’t make sense until I realized something. I realized that after a year of living in complete ambiguity, never knowing what to expect from one day to the next, never being quite sure if I was surviving or actively dying, and never being able to count on functional health from one week to the next it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad all I craved was being able to count on what to expect for tomorrow…even if that was death. Living in that in-between place for so long was miserable and taxing and…well…when I got the diagnosis of 3-6 months, as terrible as it was/is, at least for the first time in a long time I knew where I stood. Sure I was dying, but at least I knew what to expect!
I don’t think this was a conscious thought necessarily, I don’t think I would have been able to actually articulate that I was glad I was dying. But what I discovered was that when I got the positive MRI result it immediately called into question the very thing that had been giving me solace. I don’t think I knew that I had been taking so much comfort in knowing what to expect until it was lost. Now let me quickly clarify that without a doubt all of this is an illusion, all of this is about perception not about reality. We cannot ever, in fact, know what to expect concerning tomorrow! (right?) And to make it even more silly is the fact that my good MRI scans do not even change anything about the 3-6 month projections in the slightest! In reality what these new and exciting scans do is powerfully remind us that there’s always hope.
And so I sat in bed sick (from those blasted UTIs) and sick (from those blasted emotions) trying to figure out why I felt the way I did–feeling betrayed by my own emotions, feeling confused by the strange feelings that were emerging, and annoyed by the fact that I was such a mess. Things would be more simple if I were just dying…right. I know, I know, you don’t want me to say that (and you definitely don’t want me to mean it) but the complete and honest truth is that the draw to normalcy, to consistency, and to clear expectations is a koolaid that’s easily drunk. Even if that koolaid is to die from cancer.
Again, there is no question whatsoever that the reality is that we’re all living from day-to-day, that those of us who think we can do life without the messiness of the unknown are living in denial, and that uncertainty or ambiguity is a part of being human. But oh, don’t we crave control?! Don’t we crave even the illusion of it?! Apparently I’ve been craving it so much that even death had an appeal simply because I could count on it!
I’m choosing not to write this blog from the perspective of “and now I’m all better”, “that was then, this is now”, or “I’m so glad I got over that”. The truth is that it’s still hard. I’m still fighting the sickness daily (both the emotional side and the actual infection side). Hopefully I’ll be better soon. Hopefully (and this would make all of this so much easier) the cancer will just go away and I can be done with all of this for good…don’t you think that would be ideal?
* Though the doctor was clear that while this gives us great hope, it does not directly change our timeframe.