Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27, 2011 – Survivor Time

A little op-ed article in our local newspaper was written by an artist, Shari Epstein, who happens to be a breast-cancer survivor.  Shari reports how some of the paintings she created during her chemotherapy and subsequent radiation treatments took on a rather dark and ominous tone.

She also observes how her experience as a cancer survivor has changed the way she looks at time:

“I am a survivor because having cancer reminds us just how fragile our lives are. For me, it changed the immediacy of wanting to accomplish my goals. It changed my appreciation of the joys in my life. It left me intolerant of wasting my time.  Cancer makes time a new precious commodity. Enjoy it, embrace it and hope you have lots of it.”

I can relate to what Shari says.  Since getting cancer, I’ve probably been working harder than ever before, particularly on writing projects.  I have more of an awareness, now, that my time on this earth is limited.  I also feel some of that same impatience she reports with experiences that seem to be time-wasters.

I’m more concerned than before with leaving my mark on the world, with accomplishing some things that will set me apart from the crowd.  Previously, I would have characterized some of those daydreams as hopes or desires.  Now, they’re closer to goals.

It’s paradoxical that I’m doing this, because of another learning I’ve had as a result of my cancer experience: that cancer just is, that it falls upon certain lives like the proverbial rain that falls on the just and the unjust.  If the R-CHOP had made no dent in my lymphoma, if it had snatched me from this world at age 50, I wouldn’t have blamed myself for that.  I might have been angry, or frustrated, or sad.  But, I wouldn’t have said it was my fault.

Now, with my lazy, indolent cancer hanging back and not doing much of anything for the past six years, I’m inclined to blame myself for any aspect of my life over which I do have control, but that I haven’t turned to the goal of accomplishing something noteworthy.

Some cancer survivors speak of how their experience with the disease has taught them to stop and smell the flowers.  Not me.  I’m not much interested in doing that unless I can pick and press some of the flowers and use them to make something worthwhile.

I now know, deep in my gut, that time is fleeting.

I’m on survivor time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just catching up on a little blog reading. Your comments are interesting to me as a parallel to my own experience. I've been told (and of course, all my close friends and family MUST be right! lol) that I always ran, never walked, and burned the candle at both ends to make up for lost time before I could walk, and after polio took that hard-fought ability away shortly after my first independent steps at 3. So be it.

However, today, in the world of post-polio, I seem to be having to make amends. If I overdo, if I don't sleep an enormous number of hours, I lose ground. So slow and easy-does-it are my new mantra.

It's frustrating . . . I remember running up and down stairs, packing 20 hours into 15. But maybe I was storing those up, as in a bank account, and now I'm drawing on that account.

Physical and psychological health are inextricably intertwined.