One thing that I think healthy people don’t completely “get” about illness is that it takes soooo much of a person’s TIME.
I’ve often said I felt like the year (and few months) of treatment was a “lost” year. I was in the throes of cancer treatments for both my 39th and 40th birthdays. I take the big picture view of how cancer cost me a year.
Lately I’ve been thinking of it in the day-to-day sense of time. The hours spent getting infused. The many, MANY hours in the waiting rooms. The lost day that was my surgery. My lumpectomy was scheduled for 10 AM; there was an emergency surgery, I did not go under until after 3 PM. That is a long time for me to fast. To say I get hangry is an understatement. As if having a disfiguring surgery were not horrible enough…shudder. It is hard for me to remember, much less write about, that terrible day when my nipple was removed.
My point (and I do have one…) is that what does not often get discussed is the sheer loss of hours involved in cancer, or any illness really. We humans often mutter, “where does the time/day go?!” as we run to the grocery store, work, whatever. Now, compound that with the time it takes to get to the medical or treatment centers. Add in the wait times. Add in treatment time. Those first 4 rounds of chemo (ugh, the Red Devil) were lost days. Then for me, the third or so day after when nausea would put me in bed all day. Then, there was the first infusion of Taxol—at least 6 hours, because it has to go in sooo slowly while the nurses watch for the allergic reaction (none for me, thank goodness). Then, what, 11 more of those infusions, I think? Too lazy to look up how many I had. Plus I had Herceptin with those. Then the 2 or 3 hours every 3 weeks of Herceptin for the rest of the year, PLUS add in radiation (thankfully short 15 minute appointments, 6 weeks, 5 days a week). All that time, Time, TIME! It is just gone.
True, I slept through every single infusion; I did not feel like doing anything anyway, so is it really lost? Well, yes, because if I had not been sick with cancer, I would not have felt too sick to do anything. I could’ve been doing something, anything, else—something fun! Or maybe I would’ve just been torturing myself with work.
Sure, these days I “waste” time looking at cat videos and other nonsense on the interwebz (especially when maybe I could be writing posts). But I can CHOOSE to do that. I had no choice in cancer. Well, I guess I could’ve elected to not treat, and maybe died, and then this whole pondering post about time would not matter. So am I wasting time these days? Or is it OK because spend those minutes laughing my head off?
I spent quite a bit of time traveling, hanging around in waiting areas of medical facilities this week—not for myself, but for my business, which is much more than a job, more than a source of income. I have chosen to help my client/patient/friend undertake treatment this year, and it will take sooo much of our time. We talk about all the wonderful things we plan to use our time for after she begins to improve. So we wait, we bide our time. We will use the waiting and infusing times to plan how to use our future time in the service of making ourselves happy.
And if some of the medical wait times are used to watch stupid pet videos, and it makes us happy—that time is not wasted either.
I’ve often said I learned all the “wrong” or unacceptable lessons in cancer (will write a post about it one of these days, when I stop goofing around watching cat videos). So I will not say this post is a lesson, it is more of a warning. To anyone lucky enough to be healthy (no cancer, no other illness), you may think you don’t have enough time in a day. You may think the cost of illness is health. But the cost is time as well.
“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” – Benjamin Franklin