I’ve had this post called urgency in my head for a few weeks now. I guess I lacked the urgency to actually put it down on the page.
Urgency has been a theme over my past few weeks. Now that I have been officially accepted onto the liver transplant waiting list (as of yesterday), it seems particularly pertinent. I am on the road to a “cure”–or to a life of anti-rejection medications and possible recurrence of a more aggressive version of the cancer I have–depending on who I talk to. It’s a “roll of the dice,” says my oncologist, but I’ve never really liked gambling and I’ve never really felt lucky with anything, so this is not really what I want to hear. The transplant decision is not a decision i’m prepared to make right now–or maybe ever. I am almost as low on the list as I can possibly be, so the choice is not urgent.
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my second opinion doctors lately because they have been spending time thinking about me and because i’ve been busy this week doing the tests they’ve ordered to properly evaluate my case. I really think the difference of opinion between my second opinion doctors and my doctor doctor(s) comes down to urgency.
How urgent–how aggressive–do we need to be? Do I have the type of cancer that I will be able to live with for a long time? My second opinion doctors say, emphatically, yes. They see a lot of patients with my type of cancer, many of whom live a long time without many problems. They see me, a happy, healthy-looking 26-year-old on their exam table, and they are not worried. They are coming from a place of non-urgency. They think I will jump around from treatment to treatment with no problem, and that I will live for a long time. Their nurses, however, are very urgent to schedule me for tests and get my pathology slides and radiology reports and medical records. “I need this–stat” one of them has said to me multiple times.
Or, will my cancer soon wake up with renewed vigor? My oncologist, and presumably the rest of my medical team, also see a lot of patients with my type of cancer, but they also see a lot of patients with other types of cancer, many of whom don’t live a long time. They see me, a happy, healthy-looking 26-year-old on their exam table, and they’re happy to see that their treatments have worked thus far. But they can’t forget how sick I was when I first came to see them a year and a half ago. They can’t forget how quickly my nausea came back and how quickly my tumors started growing again after my first couple rounds of chemo didn’t work. They are coming from a place of urgency. And they think, with a little bit of urgency, they just might cure me.
In my head, my post called urgency wasn’t actually going to get this serious. My post called urgency was going to talk about school and about dating–the less serious things in my life. Everything about school has been very urgent lately. Maybe it’s something in the spring air, or this is the “sprint” before the “finish line” or something, but i’m sticking around for an extra six months, so it’s going to be a long sprint.
The quarter started less than three weeks ago, and for that whole time, everyone has wanted everything from me right now. My to-do list that my mediation teachers told me not to keep has been getting longer and longer faster than I can check things off. If I find a free moment–and I haven’t found many–I ask myself questions like, “If you found out you had only six months more to live, would you regret getting so wrapped up in doing all these things you’ve been doing?” “What do you think the other people on the liver transplant waiting list are doing right now?” “Now that I have cancer, do I really want to pursue this professional career that i’m going to school for?” Most of the time after I answer these questions I want to stop everything that i’m doing, throw out my stupid to-do list, and try to live my life free of everyone wanting things from me right now. Of course, you can never get everyone–there will still be the nurses.
A lot of it comes down to attitude. My personal sense of urgency in the face of all the urgency around me. I can be amazingly non-urgent when i’m riding my scooter on the streets of Los Angeles during rush hour (some of the most urgent places on earth), when i’m making this big transplant decision, when i’m deciding who to date or who not to date or whether I even want to date. Generally, my urgency is low. But with school, and I fear with eventual work, I just can’t seem to get to a place of non-urgency and stay there. There has to be a balance between being urgent enough to get things done, but not being so urgent that my heart is racing all the time and my breath is shallow and i’m not sleeping for fear of missing a deadline.
I’m going to try harder this week to not get wrapped up in being so urgent about everything. I can’t sustain the next 8.5 weeks of the quarter like that. You might have to remind me, gently, but urgently, if I forget.