Yesterday, overwhelmed and discouraged by the thought of having to juggle school and cancer again, I was ready to quit my grad program and start enjoying my life more. Get a part-time job somewhere fun. Ride my bike a lot. Meditate regularly. Pick up some hobbies. Cook. Visit my sister in Davis. Hang out on the beach.
These kinds of thoughts are rare for me. With i am a liver, I try to write about the “other” side of cancer–the chronic side that you don’t find much in pop culture because it doesn’t make for an interesting story. Some of the problems I deal with are different than other cancer patients, but some are the same. The thoughts I have been entertaining today and yesterday are perhaps some of the most common thoughts that cancer patients, and maybe even any patient with any sort of life-changing and/or life-shortening disease, eventually comes upon: what do I want to do with the life I have left?
Last fall after I was diagnosed I distinctly remember thinking that I didn’t need to make any crazy changes because I was happy with my life. I was in the grad program I had been dreaming about for the last year. I was back in California. I had nice friends and a supportive, loving family.
I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve made some small changes in my life, but I haven’t felt the need to do anything huge. This is partly because I haven’t been given a specific life expectancy (except: “Some people with neuroendocrine tumors can live for a long time without many problems.”) Partly because there are still some big things i’d like to do in my life, like get married and have kids… things that I can’t just go out and do. Especially the latter, not while i’m on chemo.
In The Big C, Laura Linney’s character immediately goes out and starts doing the things she’s always wanted to do. She stops planning and starts doing. She hires a contractor to build a pool in her backyard. She gets a brazilian wax. She gets rid of the couch she’s always hated (For the record, she has all of her hair, but only because she decides to forgo traditional treatment).
I haven’t seen The Bucket List, but they have, well, a bucket list.
I might feel differently right around finals time, but I think I realized today, that I am where I belong right now. Maybe I feel like a slacker because I’m not 100% invested, but I don’t have to be. I can find some pleasure in the little things: Reading about planning while sitting outside in the sun. Sleeping in, sometimes. Commiserating with my classmates. Getting organized, disorganized, then reorganized. Not stressing myself out. My mind is active, my days are busy, and sometimes, I even catch myself not thinking about cancer. That’s enough.