Friday, August 4, 2006

Live for What?

When I was first diagnosed, I thought about my cancer all the time. These days I find I don’t have time to think about it. Of course, there are physical reminders of my cancer, and I talk about it when it comes up in conversation, but I just think about it as a fact, not an emotion. “We’re going on a holiday in September to celebrate the end of my cancer treatment.” “We couldn’t buy the condo we wanted because I was diagnosed with cancer during our negotiations.” Just everyday conversation with cancer as an everyday fact of life.

I’m too busy to feel the cancer now. Today, I went to yoga class, sold some furniture to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, met a friend for lunch, went to visit a newly diagnosed cancer patient, gave Josie a shower and saw her to bed, then went to visit a maid shelter to deliver some cakes and talk to them about how I can help. What a busy day. Who has time for cancer with so much going on?

And tomorrow’s the last day of “Mommy School”, so I’ll have six kids graduating from home school, which I’ve been running at our house twice a week during the summer. And I’m going to start Mandarin lessons soon, and if my doctor says it’s okay, train for a half-marathon. I also plan to set up a cancer resource Web site. I have so many things I want to do, I’m trying to fit as much into my days as possible because I don’t know how many days I have left.

Keeping active and having goals, plans, and dreams is going to help me through my cancer. Cancer makes you feel desperately that you want to live. But live for what?

Before my diagnosis, I used to think that if I ever had a terminal illness, I’d go climb Mt. Everest. If I died trying, then okay, I was going to die anyway and at least I was doing something interesting when I died. And if I didn’t die and actually made it to the top, then hey, what an achievement!

But now that my mortality has been thrown in my face, I don’t aspire to do anything as grand and self-serving as climbing a mountain. I just want to do little things that I think will make my world better. I see a lot of things that need fixing. I think healthcare professionals' communication skills and patient support in hospitals in Singapore are virtually nonexistent, particularly for cancer patients. I want to change that. Maids here can be abused and the government does little for them. I want to change that. I’m not going to set up any foundations or change any laws. I’ll just help one person at a time and fix as much as I can while I’m around. And maybe someday my kids will be proud of me for trying to fix things.

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