When I went for a haircut today, I stopped off in a video game store to see what the latest offerings were. There was a child playing one of the demo games in the corner who suddenly cried out with the most gleeful sound. I guess he must have killed some horrific monster. Normally, I’d have smiled, enjoyed, and even shared his youthful excitement, but instead I was filled with jealousy.
I was very surprised by my reaction and spent a lot of time thinking about it. I realized I’m having a hard time experiencing joy and excitement anymore.
As I was thinking about this, memories of a long past event kept surfacing. Decades ago, after I bought my first house, it was broken into and I was robbed. I came home to find all the drawers pulled out and doors opened. My first fear was that the robbers were still there, but fortunately, they were gone. Then I made a quick inventory and found that nothing of real value was stolen – except for my innocence. The world suddenly became less safe, fair, and trustworthy.
It took a long time for the effects to wear off. Whenever I left the house, in the back of my mind, I worried that it might be broken into again. For a time, going out to dinner or to visit friends lost some of its appeal and my enjoyment suffered. Staying at home wasn’t much better, as someone might break in while I was there. Eventually, I accepted what happened, embraced my new understanding of the world (with an alarm system and gun), and resumed living my life as before.
My experience with cancer can be viewed in the same light. I go to the doctor’s office and he tells me they found a burglar in my body. The burglar is stealing my life. Unlike my home burglar, this burglar continues to steal my life every day, and steals increasingly more of it as each day passes, until there is no more life left. I am told we cannot stop the theft, only slow it down. The world suddenly becomes profoundly less safe, fair, and trustworthy. Going out, visiting friends, staying at home, listening to children gleefully cry out – basically living – loses some of its appeal. In the back of my mind I know someone is busy stealing my life.
Unfortunately, I’m still trying to accept what is happening and embrace my situation. There are no easy crutches like alarm systems and guns for this situation. I have wills, medical directives and, most importantly, the love of people around me.
I hope before I die I can reach a level of acceptance of my cancer that I can feel joy, not jealousy, when a child cries out gleefully. Time will tell.