January 04, 2010

Hard Time Celebrating Good News?

forging-ahead

I got good news at my doctor appointment three weeks ago.  I feel deeply relieved for the first time in almost a decade.  I’m rid of the 2 ton weight that has long been chained to my shoulders and I’ve stopped calling my mom with 4AM panic attacks.

In Everything Changes, I interviewed Nora, a lymphoma patient, who was talking about marking her progress during chemo: “ I don’t know if I ever really celebrated any of my good news.  Every time I get a good report I always feel like the hammer has just been held up a little while longer.  So it’s hard to celebrate. It’s just realism actually. I’m at higher risk for infertility, heart disease, lung cancer, leukemia.”

Feeling the relief of my recent good news is a first for me.  In nine years of cancer, I’ve rarely received news that merits celebration. Plus, as an uber educated patient, when I received somewhat good news, I understood that it often had a less favorable side to it. Also, I never wanted to build up my happiness only to have it shot down later. I’ll admit, I’m a pretty realistic person.  Meet my family and you’ll understand.  We’re loving gregarious folks, but looking on the bright side is not our forte.

Even with my recent news it has taken me a while to be able to unwind and feel it. The anxiety of waiting for scans and test results is like living in another universe. I need a reentry period. I cannot just flip a switch from scared shitless to clinking champagne glasses.

I know many patients who have worse prognoses than mine and have would have killed for my news even when it wasn’t all good.  During those times when I wasn’t able to celebrate, I was still aware of how fortunate I was.  I’m not big on guilt or enforced gratitude.  When I couldn’t celebrate my good news, I never forced myself to by comparing myself to others.  I’m always best off just being me.

I’m happy today, not because I’m a positive thinker or am trying to make the most of every moment, but because I’ve finally received news that warrants celebration.  I know I could push it away out of fear.  But this time, it actually makes sense to embrace it.

Have you ever received good news since your diagnosis? Do you have a hard time celebrating good news?

Learn more about how other patients react to news from their docs in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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December 28, 2009

Your Best and Worst Moments of 2009?

sn850666

Forget the ball in Time Square.  My favorite part of New Year’s is talking stalk of the past 365 days.   I’m curious about your best and worst of 2009.  A fan of delayed gratification, I’ll save my best for last:

#1 Sucky Times: My worst moments of 2009 were around illness.  But not only mine.  I spent a lot of time in the hospital with a close family member.  It was totally new for me to be a caregiver instead of a patient.  They both suck.

#2 Pissed Off and Outraged: In 2009, my blood boiled over the slanted reporting about the public option, and watching the cancer community totally skirt healthcare reform issues, doing next to nothing to advocate for us.  How are any of us going to answer to our grandchildren about sitting by and watching tens of thousands of cancer patients die each year because of lack of access to care?

#3 Ass Kicking in Congress: My friend Lisa Friedman and I spent a day pounding down the doors of Congress this past spring, meeting with legislative aides, and having a fantastic talk with Kennedy’s folks.  Young adult health care was our focus and we rocked.

#4 Mission Accomplished:  I spent five years researching and writing Everything Changes.  In February it hit the shelves of bookstores throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the UK. I especially loved walking into Barnes and Nobel in Union Square in New York City and seeing it prominently displayed as a special pic read.

#5 Dream Come True: I don’t really have idols -well,  except for Terry Gross. I’ve always dreamed of being a guest on Fresh Air.  I soared with happiness after spending an hour and a half in an NPR studio recording an interview with her about young adult cancer that aired in September.

#6 Everything Changes:  Two weeks ago, I had one of the best check ups out of my entire nine year career as a thyroid cancer patient.  I sometimes have a hard time trusting good news.  (Note to self to write a post about that.)  But this time I have really soaked it up and am incredibly grateful. Though I hope I don’t jinx myself by writing this!

What were your highs and lows of 2009?  Gimme your laundry list.

If you haven’t yet read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s – you don’t have to go to Union Square to get it.  Go to any bookstore or just click here!

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