Beating the Worry that Comes with Cancer

For a Stage IV cancer survivor I’ve got a lot going for me:
— Clean brain MRIs for more than a year; cancer free from the neck down for more than two.
— My older son is getting married in a few months. My younger son, who graduated last May, just got word he’ll be teaching in Austria next year on a Fulbright program.
— My wife and I support each other, and we’ve weathered the storm of a Stage IV cancer diagnosis, surgeries, radiation treatments, forced semi-retirement, and the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis.
Despite my good fortune at being a complete responder, so far, in a clinical trial that I am fortunate to be part of, I can’t shake feelings of unease.

It’s the human condition to worry about the future, while not savoring the moment. And so, when my mind wanders, as it often does, it arrives at these points of concern:
— How long will I stay on the clinical trial (nivolumab/Opdivo alone now, administered every two weeks; nivo was combined with ipilimumab/Yervoy  for the first 3 months; more details about the trial are in this chapter)? It’s open-ended at this point, and it takes its toll in time and side effects.
— If I continue to be free of cancer, and I eventually am able to stop biweekly treatment, will I be able to find a job with benefits, including health insurance?
— If I am self-employed, will Obamacare be around for precondition cases like me? Or will Paul Ryan get his way and I’ll go into a high risk pool and much, much pay more for it?
— If I stay on Social Security disability, I should get Medicare coverage with no problem once my workplace health insurance expires in about a year. But what about Katharina? Her current job as an adjunct instructor at Keene State College pays no benefits.
— So far I’ve dodged the financial toxicity that sticks to so many cancer patients. Is there a financial day of reckoning looming down the road?
There are plenty of other concerns as well, like the radiation I’m being exposed to from the CT scans that I’ve had every three months for the past five years and can expect to have going well into the future as well. Or the toll that the contrast dye is taking on my remaining kidney.
So yeah, I’ve got worries. But I also have ways of coping:
Walking through the woods.
Rigging my Sunfish and catching some wind on Spofford Lake.
Playing pool with a friend.
Hugging my wife and enjoying her company.
Counting my blessings.
Starting — and finishing — home repair projects.
Helping others with their challenges.
Living in the moment.
Breathing deeply, through my belly.
Repeating my mantras.
Like:
 What will be, will be.
Enjoy the moment.
Breathe.
Don’t worry, be happy.
Easier said than done. Most definitely worth a try.

One thought on “Beating the Worry that Comes with Cancer

  1. We start a clinical trial tomorrow, 3 months after surgery and lots of investigation…and have thought through all the same worries you describe. We saved for the future…but not the future we’re now facing. Hope to still be enjoying each day with spouse in 5 years. We laugh every day about dumb things, and wonder how that will continue once side effects kick in. Then your story is revealed and provides so much hope. I do hope you can stay true to your closing lines…don’t worry, be happy.

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