This piece is based on my diagnosis and treatment years ago. One of the issues people with a serious illness face is that feeling of life spinning out of control. To this day, I have control issues, especially when seeing my doctors, and it stems from my breast cancer experience.
“You will see the oncologist on this date,” my chemo nurse politely tells me.
“But I have a meeting at work that day,” I say as I look at the new monthly treatment calendar she gave me. “I can see him the next day.”
“No, you will see the doctor on this date,” my nurse gently insists.
I feel trapped, ensnared.
My life is no longer my own. It now belongs to my medical team.
I have cancer.
Cancer dictates my treatments.
Cancer dictates my schedule.
Cancer dictates my life.
Besides my many thoughts on dying, I am watching my life reeling out of control. My medical team is working tirelessly to save my life and keep me healthy throughout treatments.
But I resent my doctors and nurses anyway.
I know these appointments are for my own good, but I’m having a very, very, very hard time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my medical team and appreciate all they do for me, but they are controlling my entire life.
Oh, and I’m losing control of my formerly healthy body, thanks to toxic treatments. I’m now plagued by infections, constipation, digestive problems, and horrific fatigue, just to name a few. I have a rendezvous with a radiation machine at the appointed time, for the appointed number of days.
I long for the good ole days when medical exams were boring, and my doctors would cheerily tell me that I was the epitome of health.
Before cancer rocked my world, I was like a building: strong, with a rock-solid foundation, reaching for my pie-in-the-sky dreams.
I trusted my body and believed if I treated it well by exercising and eating healthily, my body would pay me back with good health.
Cancer had other plans.
The cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments have crumpled my life map and make me wonder if I will even have a future.
Cancer bends buildings.
Cancer breaks my spirit.
Cancer leaves me naked, prostrate, begging medical personnel for some control over my own damn life.
Enter the meltdown during the week my radiation oncologist is on vacation. One day, after radiation treatment, I believe I don’t have to have my regular appointment with her this week. My radiation oncologist is unbelievably sunny and sweet, but let’s face it: one less doctor’s appointment is a blessing.
I am getting ready to head into the locker to change into my civilian clothes, when a nurse stops me. She ushers me into an examination room and says, “Another radiation oncologist wants to examine you.”
I try to tell her that there is some mistake, that my doctor is on vacation, that this exempts me from another exam. But the nurse gently walks me into the examination room.
I cannot cope with seeing another doctor at that time. So I do the only thing I know how to do:
I break down and sob.
The kind nurse holds me and rocks me like a baby, gently wiping my tears. I wish I knew her name, for I’m eternally grateful for her sweetness.
In less than a month, I will see some doctors, including my oncologist, and my lack-of-control hot button will go off. I will be bringing my sketchpad and do breathing exercises and remind myself that I do have some control and I’m choosing to see my physicians.
At least that’s what I’ll tell myself. I hope I listen.
How has cancer affected your and/or a loved one’s sense of control?
Please feel free to share how cancer has affected the way you perceive the world.
Tags: breast cancer, cancer, loss of control