Cancer messes with your head a little bit.
Forget the roller coaster of emotions you go through. Forget the overwhelming number of doctor’s appointments, needles in your arm and information to absorb. It also changes you. Like it or not.
Last summer when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I went through my own roller coaster ride, from shock, to worry, to acceptance, to moving on. One thing that struck me recently was my new compulsive need for control.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been impatient. I asked a lot of questions, always wanted to know the ending of a show, couldn’t wait for vacations, birthdays or books. If I saved up for a camera, I couldn’t wait till my parents drove me to the store to get it.
My mom often tried to teach me patience, and exclaimed, “patience is a beautiful thing honey,” whenever I would start to complain. My dad would tell me to let my faith fuel my patience.
It didn’t always work.
After that, I grew up and found a way to use that impatience to do something I love. I became a journalist.
When you’ve been told you have a lump, you start the process that I call “waiting, waiting, waiting.” It is not enough that your nerves are frazzled at the sound of the word “tumor,” but the long and tedious process that follows is sure to knock the impatience out of you.
You wait for the biopsy, you wait for the results, you wait for the surgery, wait for the treatment, wait for the scan. You wait, and wait, and then wait some more. It’s enough to force even the most impatient person to be patient.
I sit in hospital waiting rooms for way too many hours. The smell of the place makes me feel nauseated. The air around me reeks of disinfectant. My neck gets strained from staring at my phone to pass the time. When tests are delayed, or the staff is too busy, or there are more forms to fill, I feel so tired of it all that I want to kick someone or something. The call waiting songs ring in my ear again and again and again. Other times I take a deep breath, and try to remember how blessed I am. I remember that it could have been a lot worse.
That is when I started to have to know exact dates. I needed to know when something was happening, what time someone was coming over, when I could expect something, how I could plan, when I could schedule, when I could relax. If I had to wait to know, sometimes that was OK, other times I would get frustrated.
OK, most times I would get frustrated.
While I pride myself in being an easygoing person, I recognize that something has changed. The need for control is not something that appears out of thin air. To some extent it has always been there. However, it takes struggle to heighten it. It takes struggle to make it stronger.
It takes struggle to need it more than ever. The more we cannot control our fate, the more we want to.