I had an “Oh shit, I have cancer moment” the other day. It comes in waves, washes over me with fear, some days hard and fast like a tidal wave, and other days it laps at the shore like a reminder on repeat. For the most part I’ve been able to manage my anxiety pretty well; meditation certainly helps, as do positive visualizations, being able to reframe negative thoughts (sometimes that’s easier than other times), and keeping myself busy and distracted (work is a blessing for the distraction, and at night while trying to fall asleep I can put all the states in alphabetical order if it means that I can keep the scary things at bay).
But recently in a conversation with somebody they wondered aloud if SHL is afraid of losing me at some point. Before you gasp with horror, it was in context to what we were talking about. And all of a sudden it hit me how much different my life is from yours. Yes there is uncertainty for everybody… People can make plans for the future, and yet we know that those plans can always change in a heartbeat. But the honest truth is that when you have cancer, those plans become much more hazy than most people’s. It’s when I think about the fact that SHL has to contend with perhaps losing me sooner than a spouse should that the fear becomes the giant tidal wave that I almost want to get lost in just so that I don’t have to deal with something that no young married couple should ever have to deal with. How did we get here?
The truth is, I have been trying so hard to stay on the positivity track and to be engaged with what is going on with my friends and family, and I don’t talk about the cancer all of the time (thankfully, right?) that perhaps people forget (?) that some of your day-to-day stuff are things that I don’t have, and may never. I love hearing about what’s going on in my friend’s lives, but what I’m learning about myself is that sometimes, as hard as this is to say, it’s painful to hear. And it’s not your fault: If I ask, then of course you’re going to tell me (and I want you to). And in order for our friendships to continue to grow and thrive, there needs to be give-and-take. It can’t be all about me (nor do I want it to be), or my cancer.
So how do we navigate these new unchartered waters that we now find ourselves swimming in? You are probably looking to me to lead, and I don’t blame you. I can try. I want to be a part of your life, want to know what’s going on with you and your partners, children, work life, home, etc. But I also want you to know that everything– EVERYTHING– for me has changed within these last 5 months. I don’t want my friends to be shy about telling me their stories, because then our friendships will be one-dimensional and unbalanced, and I would feel disconnected from you. I suppose I just want people to remember that for SHL and me, as much as we remain optimistic and hopeful and create and enjoy a joyful life together, our lives have taken on a whole new aspect that include a lot of difficult decisions, and a path that regardless of what happens, good or bad, we will have to figure out how to travel as time goes on. Our lives are different my friends, and to try and pretend that’s not the case would just be silly. But we can either let this separate us, or we can explore whatever comes our way together, and in the end, maybe our relationships can flourish even more than we had ever imagined.