Where Things Stand Two Months In

4 Jan



In mid-December I received my most recent referral for a PET/CT scan. Very soon  (January 9th  to be exact) I will go through another scan—another day of avoiding carbohydrates in preparation, another moment to ingest and be injected with radioactive sugar, another week-long wait for my doctor’s appointment with the results, and hopefully another moment of simultaneous confusion and relief.  Two months have gone by in the blink of an eye, and I find that in some ways I am as scared and uncertain as I was when I first took these tests a few months ago.  Then I was told in no uncertain terms that I had Lymphoma—a diagnosis that turned out to be false.  Now, I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going on.  When last we looked, I had a benign tumor in my chest (which I swear I don’t feel at all), several enlarged lymph nodes, and a slightly enlarged spleen. Now…..who knows?  Only the scan will tell.  I am right back where I started.  Well, in truth, not right back where I started.  As I’ve noted in other posts I have tried to use my bizarre circumstances to motivate me to pursue greater active health and peace of mind. On some counts I’ve succeeded, or at least started down the path to success.  In other ways I have been less successful….I think.

On the success side I have put a great deal of effort into my fitness and my diet.  I go to the gym often and have even started taking Tai Chi class.  Tai Chi is not new for me.  It’s something I pick up every 5-10 years or so, like trying to read all three volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.  As with reading Proust, in the past I have embraced the study of Tai Chi with a zealous passion only to abandon the practice about 6 months in.  Actually I tend to abandon reading Proust much sooner than that.  This time feels different, though.  My interest in Tai Chi this time is not about a fleeting passion, but instead a genuine belief that I should find as many reasonable and affordable ways as possible to stay physically active and mentally calm.  Tai Chi seems to fit the bill, and I hope I stick with it.  As for my diet, I have tried to adhere to the anti-inflammation diet.  I avoid most processed sugars (except for a few weeks ago when people flooded me with their holiday wishes in the form of cookies).  I eat a lot more fish and vegetables than I used to, and I think I’ve eaten red meat just twice in the past two months (maybe three times).  We cook a lot more. I feel a lot better, and while I have not lost any weight (not a friggin’ ounce!) people tell me (without prodding, mind you) that I look lighter.  I’ll take it!

Less successful, I think, has been my ability to, as the internet meme demands of us, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  In truth, my efforts to attain greater peace of mind have improved.  There’s the Tai Chi, the meditation (once or twice daily), the continued, single daily dose of Ativan, and a general effort on my part to appreciate what I have and to keep it together.  And yet, as I get closer to my next scan, I can’t help but freak out a bit—not all the time, of course, but a little more often than I care to.  It creeps up on me when I least expect it.  For example, lately my daughter has developed a particular fondness for the BBC cult classic, Dr. Who, a show I never really cared for all that much, but which really gets under my skin these days. Merely hearing the theme song is enough to agitate me, and a cable channel’s recent New Year’s Eve marathon, which I watched a bit of in an attempt to find some common cultural ground with my teenage daughter, left me profoundly unsettled and unhappy.  At its core the show contemplates the vagaries of time, and for me uncertainty can be an alarming state these days. 

Uncertainty is the tough part about my current condition.  It is vague, undefined, and in some sense unknown.  Left to my own devices my mind will attempt to end the uncertainty by filling in the blanks with a series of scenarios, some pleasant and some terribly frightening.  I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to keep my imagination in check and follow Peter Pan’s advice to “think lovely thoughts,” but sometimes I grow tired of constantly reminding myself that there’s nothing to be afraid of unless/until there’s something to be afraid of.  I am trying harder than I ever have in my life to live day to day, but sometimes I am so desperate to know my future that it consumes all of my intellectual strength.  Naturally I long for good news, but deep down, something inside of me craves certainty just as much. Put simply, living in limbo can be exhausting.

I recognize, and have blogged about, the fact that we all live in limbo, that none of us can predict our futures with any real certainty, that, as my Tai Chi teacher has observed, the past and the future are figments of our imagination.  Most days that’s works.  Still, I do wonder whether I will ever be fully comfortable with that concept.  Just days after my positive, though, uncertain, diagnosis I asked the question, “Can I feel better?” Could I turn my recent tribulations into a catalyst to live a healthier life?  In many ways the past two months have shown me that, yes, it is possible for me to live healthier and to even enjoy doing so most of the time.  Now, just a few short days from my forthcoming travails, I wonder, “Can I train my mind to live life in the moment?”  Can I end one of my most notable habits of mind (my unique talent for worrying)?  Can I replace loathsome thinking with lovely thoughts?  Can I somehow learn to appreciate Dr. Who? And is it possible, is it even remotely conceivable, that I can “Keep Calm and Carry On?”  Your guess is as good as mine, and your tips and suggestions on how to achieve that state are actively sought and deeply appreciated—save for the Dr. Who thing.  Seriously, I have never liked that show.

P.S. I promise to post about my next doctor visit (January 16) as soon as I can.  Thanks as always for reading, and a belated Happy New Year to all of you.



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