I Don't Want to Talk About Cancer!
Last updated: May 2022
Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is talk about cancer. Having been a cancer caregiver for friends and various family members since 1975, there are times I never want to talk about it ever again. I want to fly away to Sfakia, a little fishing village on Crete, and sip raki on the shady veranda of a seaside taverna. Somewhere where no one knows me. I want to pretend to be a carefree bon vivant. I just want to forget everything for a week or two.
Unfortunately, as a senior, a widow, and living on an extremely fixed income, I don't see this happening. Still, I dream!
Dreams are a great exercise in self-care
In the midst of chronic conditions, it's important to allow yourself to daydream, whether you're the patient or the caregiver. I learned this while caring for my father, who died of colon cancer in 1993. Taking care of family members changes your life forever.
As a classical composer, I had just completed six years as assistant to the conductor of a metropolitan orchestra in California when my mother phoned to ask if I could move to Denver.
She was working and couldn't be home with dad all day. It was hard to leave my career and contacts, and all my friends, basically my entire life, but there was nothing I wouldn't do for him.
Next thing I knew, I was in a Denver suburb living, literally, eight feet under in the basement apartment of my parents' home at the age of 42. It was a lonely, grueling time, so I did what I could to make it bearable.
I began to daydream about a trip to Vienna, the home of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, and so many of my heroes. I finally made that trip in 1995, so you see, dreams really are the roots of success!
How I'll pull off Crete at the age of 70, I have no idea, but I dream!
It's become a habit and a great exercise in self-care. I even go into Pinterest and save wardrobe ideas, and I harvested photos of Sfakia from the web for a screensaver.
Maybe all this caregiving has made me a little soft in the head, but who cares? I'm still here, which is more than I can say for most of my friends from high school!
24 karat gold springs
People often ask me how I've been able to retain my naturally sunny disposition and humor after all I've been through in life: childhood physical, sexual, and mental abuse, my first husband's suicide when our baby was only two weeks old and I was 18, my second husband's alcoholism and domestic abuse, the ongoing care of my autistic adult son, cancer, cancer, cancer, and who knows what all.
All I can say is, that I was born with the gift of 24 karat gold springs on my feet, and the harder I'm dropped, the higher I bounce back. This year, following the death of my wife, who had MBC, it hasn't been so easy.
Anti-depressants help a little, but what seems to work most is this dream of Crete. So what if I never get to go? It's ok. Not everything we do has to have a red ribbon reward at the end. Cancer teaches us that.
Maybe the ability to suspend disbelief a bit and dream is its own reward.
My gift to you
My gift to you is the hope that you learn the joy of dreaming and of exercising your imagination.
After all, we use so much of that energy on anxiety and "what if" scenarios.
When we can't control anything else, we can control how we use our minds. Give in to your inner child and dream!
P.S. Coloring books designed for adults are fun too! My wife, Lynette, enjoyed her coloring books all the way up until the week before she passed.
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