not thinking about cancer

This week I have become the grad student that I hated.

I have been spending my days and nights eating, sleeping, and drinking maps. I’m in this mapping class, and for the midterm project and now the final, the best way I have found to do the work is to spend hours and hours–and I mean, all day, everyday–in the computer lab at school.

It hasn’t been terrible, really. It hasn’t been super stressful because i’m not thinking that much about grades, or about all that I have left to do. It’s been fun, in a way. Putting my heart and soul into a project like this feels like a luxury. Sort of like going out–but way more fulfilling. For so much of the past year, my doctors and my body dictated how I spent my time. Last fall, it was at appointments and scans. Last winter, it was at home, recovering from surgery. Last spring and summer, I was getting into the swing again–interrupted, briefly, by chemo that wasn’t working–figuring things out. Now, my doctors’ demands are fewer and my body is feeling good again, so I can decide how I want to spend my time.

And apparently, I want to spend it in the computer lab staring at maps. When I had periods of low-intensity treatment like this during in the past year, I would proceed trepidatiously. I would spend time on schoolwork, of course, but not this much time on school work. I always felt like something would happen and it would get taken away from me, like I would have to put it aside and not finish it if I put too much into it. Or, if I stopped thinking about cancer for one second it would come back and bite me (again). I saw my colleagues at school treating their classes like a full-time job. I didn’t understand why they put hours in every single day when I could get by attending support groups and watching movies and sleeping and trying to make sense of this whole cancer thing… and sometimes doing schoolwork.

I think part of the reason i’m working so hard is this is actually my first full quarter at school. I have a full load of classes and i’m on track to finish all of them (thank you, hours spent in the computer lab–today I present my work). The last two quarters I’ve been at school  I’ve taken less than a full load, or last year at this time, a full load but still work leftover once the quarter ended.

Also, I think it helps that I’ve also been busy the last few months putting my life back together. Rather, putting my new life together–I won’t ever be the girl I was in Chicago again. Starting this blog was a big step in that direction. Staying in grad school was too. So was “coming out.”

I think I was jealous before of those grad students that I hated. I was jealous they could devote so much time and and energy and attention to school where I could only devote a small percentage of mine. While this period leading up to finals is unique and short lived and I don’t think I could sustain it for a whole ten weeks without air, I just want to reaffirm that staying in school was a good choice. It feels really good to finally be able to finish something big. And to not think about cancer.

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5 Responses to not thinking about cancer

  1. Matt says:

    Who would have thunk that grad school could have a calming effect on you…? It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath & feel realtively normal? School mostly made me itch…and that was on a good day!

  2. George T says:

    It sounds to me like you’re experiencing a kind of bliss. Maybe the bliss of immersion and forgetfulness. I love keeping my mind busy in many different ways it’s really almost as good as therapy. We can all use more therapy. 😉

  3. Monique says:

    I’m glad you’re getting to finally devote the time you want to grad school 🙂 I, too, have been working on projects that take over all of my spare time — and sanity.

    Here’s to prying ourselves away from the computers when the term is over 🙂

  4. It can be so hard when you’re going through something like this. But that’s great that you’ve found a way to spend your time on something else!

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