Don't Worry - You Won’t Remember Most of This
Fear of the future is the constant shadow of a cancer diagnosis. Once the doctor shines a light on your cancer the shadow of fear - of the future - is cast. But what I have found is the fear of the future you feel is so much larger, louder, and scarier than what it really is.
You will look back and remember, no matter your journey, your fear is irrelevant. It is a figment of the uncertainty you feel when told you had cancer. The cancer is real. The doctors are real. The procedures, the poking, the prodding, the pain, the weariness, the mental fog - all real. The fear is not. The fear is what you created based on all those other realities. It is simply a shadow - no mass. It's not solid.
And it isn't what you will carry forward on your journey. The load you feel at the time will be heavier than the memory of that weight.
Reminiscing over the experience, not the pain
This whole post was inspired by a conversation my wife and I had the other night. We were chatting about the kids, how much older they are, and how adult they are now. That, in turn, led to discussing their early years and ultimately their births.
The experiences we had with them could not have been more different. The first was textbook - not that there wasn't the normal pain and discomfort but that it was short (less than 5 hours), "easy" and no complications. The second was horribly long (12+ hours), with a nursing and medical staff that would not get a positive yelp review, in a city we had only moved to two weeks prior.
But as we talked about those experiences we also talked about how little my wife remembers of the pain or the little mistakes made by nurses and doctors. Nothing tragic, just trivial things, like not knowing where the blankets were in the room, things that made the delivery choppy. All she remembers is that it hurt. But not in a way she can relive it. She can't recreate that pain. She can only remember she had pain as a concept.
But my wife has little remembrance of the physical experience but, as you would expect, she has a staggeringly deep emotional one.
Reminiscing over the bladder cancer, too
And those conversations made me think about my journey with bladder cancer. How much did I really remember? Sure I have milestones I can remember.
The after surgery.
The first hospital stay.
The second hospital stay.
The weeks of having a catheter.
The months of wearing pads and diapers.
All of those things were very visceral at that time, but today they seem rather unimportant and unremarkable.
Like my wife, I have a "remembrance" of the experience but in a 2-dimensional way. I still have an ongoing experience with my cancer. That is decidedly 3-D! But it too will fade.
Let life overshadow fear
And that is why I say you won't remember most of this. What you feel today, in the thick of it, is not what you will remember in the future. What you will remember is...
You are alive.
You are healthy.
You will remember having difficulties moving around if you had surgery
I think the brain has a way of making sure we don’t bring the deep memories of our pain forward into our present and our future to make sure we stay positive and focused on the good things.
So, if you're starting your journey expect some pain, but remember this – you won't really remember most of it.
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