Column: On A Tangent

Column: On A Tangent

Not that I live day-to-day or even month-to-month, but I do live – in my head anyway – quarter-to-quarter; that interval representing the usual and customary time between my recurring diagnostic scans. The time when the rubber hits my road. The time when push comes to shove. The time when my oncologist tells me whether my warranty has been extended for the next three months or not. Not that I anticipate that my time will run out that quickly after a disappointing scan result; still, bad news seems to travel faster and cause adverse consequences quicker than good news causes relief, a sort of “disharmony,” to quote James Cagney from the movie, “Mister Roberts.”

But what else is new? Nothing, really. Because to live the life of a cancer survivor is way better than not living, or casting yourself as a victim, which, for those who know me, know I never do. Where’s the future in that? Blaming, “woeing-is-meing,” “self-dissatisfying?” To what end? Misery might like company but it’s boring to be around miserable people. And to survive a potentially devastating and depressing set of circumstances – expected or not – associating and/or being exposed to/subjected to people who look at life through black-rose-colored glasses provides no help whatsoever.

I don’t want to feel better about myself by being around people who feel worse about themselves. I want to feel better by being around people who feel good and act/behave positively. Strength may indeed come from numbers, as they say; but when you’re a cancer patient/survivor, strength comes from attitude: yours, your fellow cancer survivors and the people with whom you surround yourself. I don’t want to have overcome someone else’s negativity. I want to be overcome by their positivity. I want/need to feel good about everything I do/attempt to do. I don’t want/definitely don’t need to feel/be made to feel bad about anything. Granted, it’s a subtle line between encouragement and disappointment where you might be suggesting one thing and minimizing another. Yet, finding a middle ground becomes imperative. Not that cancer patients’ psyches are fragile and easily affected by the words and deeds of others; however, cancer does exert some subconscious and even unconscious control and consequently, you might end up feeling/emoting/reacting differently than you ever have or ever anticipated. As an example: I tear up regularly while watching television, and not just at “tear-jerkers,” either: news, weather, sports, comedies, dramas, fiction, non-fiction; anything, everything.

Mastering one’s domain, in a non-Seinfeld-type context is crucial to surviving a cancer ordeal. Taking the ups and downs and all-arounds in some sort of stride, even two steps forward and one step backward isn’t so bad. At least your net movement is forward. And forward is the goal. Certainly I’m not looking forward to my next scan in October but it is something to look forward to; it’s progress, sort of; it means that life is still being lived. It’s not ideal, but ideal left the building on February 27, 2009 when I received my initial face-to-face diagnosis/prognosis. Nevertheless, I remain positive about my negative. In my opinion, the alternative serves no purpose.