I was sitting down and reading the paper and having coffee as I like to do on a Sunday morning. It's my first day off for the week and I like to sit down and relax. No rushing around and no kids to organise to get off to school. It's my only day of the week where I'm not rushing around.
While reading, I read this article. https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/changed-ambition-after-kids/100044446
While I'm reading it, I'm thinking "pfft, you ain't seen nothing". But then of course, a curve ball to one person is not to another. It depends on the size of the challenges we've had previously in life.
Which got me thinking. How did the ambitions of other people with cancer change?
Did you find yourself more ambitious than you were before?
Did you find that you didn't want sweat the small stuff any longer? Was work no longer a priority?
If work is no longer a priority, what is? Perhaps you are busy with treatment?
Too busy sky diving?
Maybe you've committed yourself to some big crazy arsed walk. (yes, looking at you @CaptainAustrali )
How have your priorities changed?
It would be great to hear from others how their lives and priorities have changed outside of just dealing with treatment.
The main thing I’ve noticed is that I have stopped buying things for myself. I find I’m in a mindset that I don’t really need that.
Work wise, I would like to go one more level up the ladder for the extra money/superannuation for my family should life go south. But work does not really stress me anymore. I’m like, I stuffed up, no big deal.
Hey Hey! Now what's this "crazy arsed walk" thing ?!?!
If you could please go back and edit in "inspiring and truly courageous" that would be much appreciated (and very appropriate). 😉
I reckon the question you throw out to the universe is a bit more complex than the obvious, almost cliche assumptions that cancer makes you stronger, wiser (or breaks you).
I think it's like grief - your relationship with your cancer changes over time. I think, all-in-all it's an absolute shit-show, the club that nobody in their right mind WANTS to join, but once you're in, you go through these phases.
What comforts me about myself, my value as a human being, is that in each phase, I really genuinely wanted to help others, anybody who was a few steps behind me, you know ?
Like grief, everybody will go through the stages differently. Some will manifest strength where others are weak and vice versa. It won't look the same for everyone - but here's how it was for me:
To get through the initial treatment, I think you have to park aside the wider existential concerns, and look toward activating your inner personal strength. You need to find ways to buckle down and get through it, and that requires a certain kind of compartmentalisation. Yep, there's no getting around the death anxiety and existential stuff that gnaws relentlessly around the edges like a hungry rat ... but for the most part the first phase is fight or flight - survival.
I think then you go into a bit of existential crisis, or at least I did. You realise that simply surviving the treatment wasn't enough at all. You learn about recurrence risks, struggle with all your treatment side effects. You certainly don't "sweat the small stuff", but not because you've risen above it, but because in your current bleak state, you're under-performing, suffering, and at least a little bit waiting to find out if youre going to die. You try and pick at it, convince yourself you're better, you're going to live, try to find joy in whatever is available to you (for me, my kids and wife). And you succeed here and there, and you celebrate being alive in those little wins. But existential crisis is the natural response to the relentless psychological and spiritual attack that cancer makes ---- after you've survived the physical component.
Then, you either die, or navigate to a way to move forward. For me, that was reaching back into my past, and a time when I was broken and in need of hope. Escaping a bad home situation (junkie mother, horrible stuff) when I was 15 was like leaving the hospital room where I fully expected to die. Hope. Healing. Discovery.
So I reach back for that, and whammo. I'm healed. All good. All that cancer anxiety is gone.
Win, lose or draw, I'm 100% rock solid. I think it was as much luck as anything else, I somehow stumbled on the correct spiritual recipe to fix me, and it's like a magic spell.
SO yeah .. my "crazy arsed walk" is what did it. And I haven't even started yet. Or rather, I started in December, because "Captain Australia's BIG WALK" (google it!) is really just a metaphor for facing and overcoming adversity. I'm not completely done yet, but when I get home from my Brisbane -> Melbourne walk at the end of the year, I plan to call that the butterfly phase (and right now, I'm kinda breaking loose from the cocoon).
For anybody who is interested:
Captain Australia's BIG WALK charity page (for the Kids Cancer Project) (i hated seeing kids in treatment):
The welcome video that explains what it's all about: https://youtu.be/rYRsXsRpRzQ
A video that shows where I was in December (still broken, 60kg heavy from thyroid radiation damage) and where I am now (mostly healed, dropped 45kg so far): https://youtu.be/1UTpafavA04
And my page on "the facebooks" if you ever want to hit be up and become facebook buddies: https://www.facebook.com/CapsBIGWALK
Note: I start actively promoting in July. What that looks like is me dressing up as a superhero and walking all over Brisbane making an abject goofball of myself in the hopes that people will be amazed/amused/inspired enough to visit the charity page and make a MASSIVE DONATION.
(Do it now, you know you wanna, go on, go on, do it now ! GO ! GO! NOW ! Did you go ? No ??? GO GO GO !)
Shameless charity promotion done - yeah ... although I'm sure in your answers there'll be common themes of personal triumph and suffering, I reckon cancer as an overall experience is a bit like having to face the monster that lives in the cellar. You need courage and fortitude to push through, but once you do, yeah, you can be so much stronger and braver.
Sorry, and once you reach that plateau, what I'm finding is you absolutely DO sweat the small stuff ... you notice EVERYTHING again. Little tics in people's behaviour, the wind in the trees, the feel of the sunshine on your face .. stuff you had forgotten in the workaday life before. But you don't sweat it insofar as getting upset and wound up over trivial stuff, although I reckon if that was core to your personality before, it'll probably remain at least to some extent.
But all-in-all, I guess it's a bit like rebirth, and it's pretty wonderful.
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