One of my favorite blogs, non-cancer-related, is Ask a Manager, all about job searching, hiring, and the workplace. She has written in the past about her disagreement with “do what you love” advice – when people say that you should follow your passion in life and do what makes you happy. She believes it is classist, in that only people with privilege can do what they truly want to do without having to make money to eat or have shelter.
I read another article about this today in the NYTimes, here.
Every time I read these things, I think to myself, “This is not true if you’ve had cancer.” You could interchange any life-threatening experience with “cancer” in that sentence, I suppose.
Cancer makes you think differently about life and its meaning… at least it has for me. I am curious to know what others think:
Has having cancer/another life-threatening experience made you more focused on doing what you love as your life’s work?
The other day a friend posted an angry rant on Facebook about racist names of sports teams, such as the Washington Redskins and Chicago Blackhawks. In my endless quest to find happiness post-cancer, my reaction was, naturally: “Calm the f&*k down. Life is way too short to get worked up about those things.” But then I thought about how it was truly unfair that we treat native Americans so poorly, and, for a moment, I felt bad about my reaction.
Which brings me to my next point: Are cancer survivors selfish? I often find myself having a similar reaction as the one above to people who gripe about the world’s injustices. I also see lots of stories on survivor message boards about people who were in good relationships pre-cancer, but then after cancer their significant others break things off because they feel the cancer survivor is only thinking of him or herself.
My uneducated explanation is that a brush with fatality makes us turn inward and realize that life is short and all we really want to do with our time here on earth is be happy. That might sometimes mean that other people’s drama or other people’s causes get pushed to the side in favor of our own passions and pursuits.
Of course, maybe it’s just me. I’d love to hear what others think – cancer survivors and non-cancer survivors!
I’ll admit I don’t understand this article. Also, I didn’t read all of it. Coincidentally, I also stopped in the middle of reading the author’s (Siddhartha Mukherjee) book, The Emperor of all Maladies.
I stopped for two reasons: 1) I was bored and 2) it scared the crap out of me, because most of the examples in his story were people who were treated and then had recurrences that killed them. Originally, I thought it would be interesting to read a history of cancer. The first couple chapters were really interesting (did you know that one of the first recorded cases of breast cancer came from an ancient Egyptian papyrus, or that mustard gas played a large role in the development of chemotherapy as we know it?), but then it got really scientific and I was less able to follow. It also really brought me down to read story after story of failed courses of treatment. Not what I needed after finishing my own, seemingly “successful” treatment.
Needless to say, I am now reading mindless fiction (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods). I just thought it was important to mention Mukherjee’s article and book, because for doctors, scientists, or others who really want to read about why cancer treatment is where it is today, it’s probably a worthwhile read.
Posted in breast, Breast Cancer, breastcancer, chemotherapy, Clinical stuff, Personal musings, Research
Tagged books, breast cancer, cancer, cancer history, emperor of all maladies, fiction, reading, Research, siddartha mukherjee
One of the joys of spending time at home is exploring my childhood bedroom and finding old diaries and j0urnals I kept through middle and high school.
My diary wasn't nearly this sparkly, but it was still full of the teeny-bopper spirit. (photo credit)
The other night I was reading one from my last year of middle school and pretty much every entry was about a crush on a new boy who didn’t crush me back. OMG! The pain in my heart was palpable through my written words – and I felt a familiar twinge of the unrequited love syndrome that was all-too-familiar back in my teenage days.
Why do I write about this now? Well, after I put down the journal and laid down for bed, I thought a lot about how priorities change throughout life, especially when facing a mega-crazy situation like cancer. Back then, I
probably felt like I was going to die if Lenny* (*names have been changed to protect my innocent crushes) didn’t like me back. Today, there are times when I feel like I’m going to die because of cancer. It just puts things in perspective.
Also makes me long for the days when things were simple – though I’m sure my 13-year-old self wouldn’t have seen it that way.
I’ve heard a lot recently about this so-called SE of chemo: “Chemo brain”. People aren’t really sure what causes it, though in my opinion it’s simply related to all of the changes that happen in your life when you are going through chemo – the anxiety of a diagnosis and treatment, the stress of being on so many drugs, etc.
Still, I thought you might enjoy if I document some of my own chemo brain moments, because I have already experienced some!
Last Friday I left my glasses on my desk at work, meaning I was without them all weekend. No problem – I’ll just use my contacts. Yeah. Left my contact solution at my parent’s house over the last weekend so no luck there. I had to throw away a perfectly good pair of fresh lenses because I had no solution to clean them with. I guess I could have gone to the store to buy some new solution but… I HAVE CHEMO BRAIN!
Then yesterday I dropped my iPhone down 2 flights of stairs. Now dad, before you read this and say, “Dammit, Cara, don’t document that you dropped your iPhone because you have to present a solid, drop-free story to the Genius Bar people so that the resulting damages fall under warranty!” remember: I have chemo brain. I can’t help that I’m typing this right now! We did joke that I should wait until I lose my hair and then go to the Apple store with a sob story about my broken phone. They can’t resist feeling bad for a young, bald woman with breast cancer, muahahaha.
Again, cancer has presented me with a brilliant excuse for my own shortcomings. Late for acapella rehearsal? Blame the cancer. Didn’t get that newsletter out in time at work? Cancer. Forgot to flush the toilet? Cancer.
Ok, that last one really was the cancer. I swear.