Living with the Uncertainty
I think living with the uncertainty that bladder cancer presents us is one of the most challenging aspects of the disease. Whether you are diagnosed early stage or late stage, uncertainty becomes your constant companion.
Life is uncertain
This is actually true with regard to our lives before cancer. None of us knows if we will get in an accident tomorrow. Life is uncertain. But we don’t think or worry about it as much as we do once we receive a cancer diagnosis.
This is because bladder cancer feels like a big, looming threat that can return at any moment. It is known for having a high rate of recurrence compared with other cancers. And even if we are “all clear” at a given point in time, we still tend to live in increments until the next test.
How can we make peace with this uncertainty?
Maybe we won’t entirely make peace with it. And maybe we won’t ever like it. But I believe becoming more present-moment oriented might help us relax into the circumstances we face, whatever they are.
When my first husband was diagnosed with Stage IV bladder cancer, I struggled with how to be peaceful in the middle of all the activity a cancer diagnosis brings. A friend who is a cancer survivor said that there is a technique she uses when everything simply feels like too much.
Focusing on the present
Using this technique, she envisions herself from a third-party’s perspective and focuses very much on the present moment. For example, if she is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, she views herself and says to herself, “I am a woman in a chair.” While cooking dinner, she says to herself, “I am a woman dicing onions.”
This is a way to bring herself very much into the moment at hand. If you are in this moment, focused on what you are doing, you can’t be worrying about what is to come or lamenting what has happened.
Frankly, I often found thinking and worrying about our experiences related to cancer far more stressful than the actual experiences when I was in the middle of them. People would periodically comment, “I don’t know how you do it,” with regard to caring for my husband with cancer.
Today is all we have
To which I responded, “what, exactly, are my choices?” Today I am a woman in a waiting room. Then I am a woman going out to eat with her husband.
Today is really all we have, sick or well. If we can be here now, it might help ease our minds.
Have you ever experienced caregiver burnout?