Cancer Lesson #70: Staying on track
In April 2011, I wrote a poem about preparing for surgery (Lesson #23), which read in part, “This engine’s going to switch its track.”
The railroad analogy has held true and remains the best way I can describe what it felt like to learn I had cancer.
I’d been chugging along on my chosen track, taking in the sights, when BAM! I was shifted to an alternate route into Cancerworld.
Six months later, chemo – and my time on the siding – ended. I rejoined the “main line,” choosing a slower route with better scenery.
The new route included more stops, sometimes at smaller stations along the way and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, when I was too exhausted to go any further.
In short, there were times I became the little engine that couldn’t.
I’m sure you remember that book: Watty Piper’s classic The Little Engine that Could. If you’re my age or older, you probably read it as a “Little Golden Book,” but it’s published in hardback too.
The little engine’s mantra of “I think I can, I think I can” is a great philosophy, one that had always worked in the past. And yet, in that first year after chemo, there were times it didn’t matter how hard I thought I could. I couldn’t because I was just too damned tired.
I’d been warned recovery would be slow, but somehow I thought my train would be, I don’t know, ahead of the curve.
Tomorrow it will be four years since my surgery, and these days I occasionally find myself taking the easy route, even when I think I can – I know I can – manage the hilly one.
This is a change. After surgery and chemo I spent two years testing myself, trying to figure out what I could still do, but I no longer feel I have anything to prove.
Instead, I’ve begun to understand that we will all die with some goals unaccomplished.
It’s up to us to decide which ones to let go now and which to continue to strive for.