I have been getting scans every six months for the past two years and I find that I am hesitant to make any plans past the next six month mark. It’s easy to get in the pattern of living your life six months or one year at a time between those scans. It feels like too much uncertainty for me to commit to anything because, “What if I’m in cancer treatment?” Or, “What if this is it and I get horribly ill and they can’t even treat it and I die?” And then I will have wasted energy making plans that will be tossed aside. Not planning anything past six months from now means that I’m not looking forward to things that happen past that point and that just plain sucks. I have talked with other breast cancer patients in the same boat and they report the same feelings of living scan-to-scan.
Some cancers are curable and if you get one of those and they cure you then you have no more of a chance of getting that cancer again that someone who never had it to begin with. All cancer sucks. I am not-so-secretly admitting, however, that I envy people who have come through those cancers. With breast cancer you are only considered cured if you have a really early stage cancer and then you make it ten years with no recurrence. Once you have a higher stage you are never considered cured. And it seems the scans are never 100% clear. There is always some small something that they want to “watch.” This really messes with my head. It’s uncomfortable living without absolutes, isn’t it?
When I was in treatment I was aware that I felt I had a hope gap. Many of my friends and family have filled that gap for me. I think I’m on the verge of closing it up a bit after these last scans. Partly because they are ordering fewer scans every six months now, and partly because I learned about foreboding joy and I realize that it perfectly describes the state of joy that I have felt since all of this started. I don’t want qualifiers attached to my joy. I want JOY, not “Joy, But.”
Thank god for providence! I have been reading “Daring Greatly,” by Brene Brown. She talks about the idea of foreboding joy. She says, “In a culture of deep scarcity…joy can feel like a setup.” Ding! She hit the nail on the head. That describes what I think when I begin to feel joy creeping in. That it’s all a setup. That if I allow myself to really throw open the curtains and feel the sun on my face I will eventually get smacked back down into despair. That if I allow myself to celebrate being NED (no evidence of disease) it will all be made a lie because the cancer will come back anyway.
Just when I think I’m awesome at vulnerability I see that in order to feel unqualified joy I have to be vulnerable. I have to be willing to be clear about my current reality (no cancer, yay!) AND I have to accept that cancer might come back a third time. Byron Katie would say I just have to love what is. I often counsel others not to borrow trouble. This year I will pull the plank out of my own eye and be vulnerable enough to feel unbridled joy. Joy. JOY.