I’m feeling great as I sit here with a gin and tonic pulling together this post. Just got back from an excellent dinner at a local seafood place. Been eating there for years, and out of the blue, first time ever, they brought us a free dessert. Must be a sign the decision I made today is a good one. I’ve decided to give up.
For the vast majority of my life I’ve been driven, some might say obsessively driven. The bigger the problem, the more driven I was to solve it; the more willing I was to give up parts of my life to solve it. Setbacks only increased my drive. As I gained perspective on solving the problem at hand, I lost perspective on my life. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. This “flaw” made me a lot of money over the years, but there was a cost.
Enter stage IV prostate cancer. If there was ever a problem to sink my teeth into, this was it. My recent post on acceptance does a good job of describing how I sought to solve the problem. In a nutshell I decided to first resolve all the fears brought on by my cancer and to do it as quickly as possible. How painful this might be was of no concern. I had a problem to solve. The biggest problem I’ve ever faced. And so I went into therapy. A couple months later I achieved my goal.
It has turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. The fears have been replaced with profound sadness and more depression. I make an artificial distinction between sadness and depression to help me understand what’s going on in me. I think of sadness as being driven by rational observations, such as, it’s sad to have cancer. Depression produces feelings, such as, one is worthless, a burden, and things will never get better. This is what I got for all the pain.
Resolving all these fears allowed me to start reading other folks’ cancer blogs. Blogs where they talk about day to day treatments, struggles, and emotions. Most are from folks’ struggling with breast, brain, blood, throat, and other cancers. As I was doing this, it finally hit me chemo can result in remission for many cancers. That’s not the case for prostate cancer chemo at this point. I knew this, but somehow I hadn’t owned it emotionally. My death seemed a lot more real all of a sudden. I spiraled down into depression. I’m ashamed to admit it, but in that state I was jealous of folks with these other cancers. Chemo, however horrible, provided a chance of remission for them. My death warrant was sealed.
This afternoon I noticed our dog was going outside to pee very frequently. My wife called the vet who said bring her in immediately. I wasn’t able to go with them, but was able to spin up. A little later they returned. I was expecting to be told Julia had been put to sleep. Fortunately, it was a readily treatable urinary infection. Didn’t matter, I collapsed into an uncontrollable sobbing fit. Afterwards, I realized the problem I’ve been trying to solve all along was to not die from cancer.
I was deluding myself into believing that if I did a great job accepting cancer, I’d get a reprieve. Pathetic, but true. This isn’t like going after a raise, promotion, bonus, stock options, or big contract. No matter how fast I work, no matter how many people I help along the way, no matter how long I work, there are no reprieves.
I’m tired of all the pain I experienced trying to accept cancer. I’m pissed off that my “reward” so far has been sadness and more depression. I’m tired of connecting with my “true” feelings to speed up my acceptance of cancer. It’s often resulted in me praying for a heart attack in the night. To hell with all this shit and the pig it rode in on. I quit.
What am I going to do? You may think I’m crazy, but I’m simply going to be happy or at least pretend to be. I see lots of other folks with cancer out there doing this. I used to view them with disdain, but I’m not so sure anymore that they aren’t choosing the best path. Sure, there will be periods when it catches up and I crater, but on balance I could very well have more time that’s good. And that’s what I’m after. More good time. This “staying in touch with my feelings” all the time is killing me and my wife emotionally.
So now I have a new problem to solve – be happy or at least pretend to be. We’ll see how it works out.