If you review my blog, you’ll notice a gap in public posts from the last quarter of 2008 all the way through the second quarter of 2010. I have a couple of reasons for that, but the most significant one is that in January 2009, my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Generally speaking, if you can avoid it, I’d suggest you do so. But if you can’t, here’s what I got from cancer:
- A serious sense of humor. It’s not the oxymoron you think it is. When my mom was going through the worst of it (bone marrow transplant), she told me that I was the funny one. My job was to keep the family laughing. I took that job very seriously, at any expense. I find my sense of humor has been permanently changed. I can, and do, find humor in everything. People can be disarmed by the ease with which I joke about serious or taboo topics.
- Perspective. A lot of little things used to really get to me. I can more easily identify little things from the big things. With some notable exceptions. Stand by for that explanation.
- Rock solid faith in my family. From the oldest to the youngest, my family pulled together when my mom was sick. My youngest niece was pretty young, but totally fearless — of hospitals, of her grandmother in a neck brace using a walker, of her aunt developing a brand new sense of humor, of everything her mother was going through. Even my late grandmother, suffering from Alzheimers, was very supportive when my mom told her about the cancer.
- Panic disorder. This one’s my favorite. I described it vaguely here, but the reality is that panic and anxiety grew to control my life beginning shortly before I knew about my mom’s cancer. My first panic attack was about ten days before I knew my mom was sick; although my mom’s cancer was pretty fully developed by that point, we didn’t know it yet. From that first panic attack, the anxiety cycled exponentially. I developed fear of heights and driving, severe social anxiety, and agoraphobia. A lot of little things bother me in a panicky way, but those are irrational things. The big, more logical things, are much easier to deal with.
- A new lease on life. Since my mom’s cancer — I realize I’m describing everything in terms of that — I’ve experienced everything just a little differently. I push myself more than I ever have. And I love it. Although it’s hard to beat back feelings of panic, my current euphoria is a high worth riding.
My experience in a very brief nutshell.