angry cars honking and gesturing

The Small Can Become Daunting During Cancer

Last updated: June 2018

When life is good and we and our family are healthy, we often take for granted many small daily activities. We perform them with such ease that we don’t even notice them. It was during these simple activities that I was most acutely reminded that my first husband Ahmad had cancer.

Living in a city like San Francisco, walking is a part of life. For us walking and jogging and biking were big daily parts of life. They served as both transportation and exercise.

Sudden changes

Ahmad was diagnosed with Stage IV bladder cancer in May 2013. Up to that point, he had been an avid walker and jogger. But by July, he needed a walker. And he had a lot of pain from a tumor pressing on his spine.

Suddenly, our simple transportation-exercise was not something easily accomplished. We started driving more often. But parking is an ordeal or very expensive (or both) in San Francisco. His pain escalated so quickly that even when walking with the walker, he couldn’t go far. I would have to drop him off and pick him up very close to wherever we were going.

People would get angry

This often involved double parking or blocking traffic. People would get angry, really angry honking their horns. It added to my stress. I wanted to broadcast: “if only you were living what we are living, if only you could experience how hard it has become just to go to an appointment or a restaurant, maybe you would relax.”

I envied these people. People who had the luxury of getting mad at something like blocked traffic. I had been them prior to cancer. It seems as if our universe of worries expands and contracts accordingly with what’s happening in our life.

When our problems are too real

When our real problems are not so many, we can afford the emotional energy it takes to get frustrated with traffic. When our real problems are too real – like cancer – those former problems tumble away. Our energy and focus get channeled towards cancer and nothing else. There is a strange sense of power and focus in this – we simply do not have the time or “luxury” of expending emotional energy on the mundane.

Trying to save a life

I think this may be why life can sometimes feel so much more focused and purposeful when we are facing cancer. Don’t trouble me with those petty concerns, we’re trying to save a life here.

I soon found peace with the world around me getting angry at my blocking the traffic. I simply didn’t care. We were trying to save a life, my husband’s life. They could honk all they wanted but I just ignored it. No guilt, no apologies, no problem. I just felt badly that they spent so much energy getting upset.

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