Useful Bits of Advice

What Cancer Has Taught Me


I was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago.  During this short period of time, events unfolded which taught me a great deal about myself and life (or reminded me of things I may have forgotten).

Since my first surgery six weeks ago, I’ve had more down time to sit and think than I have in years.   Due to the invasive nature of the surgery and the lengthy recovery period, I have a limited ability to perform what I’ve been accustomed to viewing as basic life tasks.  This isn’t necessarily a good thing for me, “idle hands are the devils workshop.”

So many thoughts have been plaguing my mind and making me insane.  I needed to get it all out of my head and into words to try to make sense of it.  This is what I came up with.

1.  People will walk out on you when you feel you need them the most.  They will do things you can’t imagine doing to another human (even if you have done something similar to someone else, as I have).  It will be incredibly painful.  Be thankful they showed you how toxic they are and how you no longer need to be a part of their life.  It’s impossibly hard to think this way at times, but it’s for the best, this I’m certain.  On the opposite end of that spectrum, some people will surprise you when they come out of the woodwork to show you they care.

2.  People won’t know what to say to you when you’re going through difficult times.  Some people may avoid speaking to you because of this fact. Others will try to find the right words when there isn’t much to say.  Be kind to them for trying and tell them how they could best support you in your time of need.  You can’t expect them to be mind readers.

3.  I’ve learned to hate the question, “How are you feeling?”  I want people to talk to me the way they used to.   I don’t want an illness to define me.

4.  Even when the sky is falling, the sky isn’t falling.  No matter what happens the world keeps on going with or without you.  It’s the way life works

5.  Learn to be your own advocate for your health.  Read, research and reach out to people who have been in your shoes.  I haven’t done much of this, but I hear it helps.  Ask your doctors questions. Push back if something doesn’t seem right and get a second opinion if you feel the need.

6.  Don’t ask yourself the question, “why me?”  It’s a stupid question which serves no purpose.  The reality is it IS happening to you and that’s what matters.  Wondering “why me” led me to pity parties and feeling helpless.  It’s nonsense.

7.  I’m a junkie and if given the opportunity I will eventually abuse pain pills; even when I need them for pain.  I can’t trust myself with pills . Doctors may push them on you to make sure you aren’t in pain.  Some will even tell pain meds are necessary and not taking them will impede your healing.

8.  Going through withdrawal sucks.  I will do almost anything to avoid it.  Including staying on pills when I don’t need them.   It’s a reminder that pills ruin my life and make my ADD and OCD completely unmanageable.

9.  I’ve felt weak and helpless and wanted others to feel the same way.  I’ve taken my anger out on people who don’t deserve it.  Then I feel shame and guilt for acting like an asshole.  Be nice, it’s easier

10.  Be a good friend to others.  Talk to them about what’s going on in their lives.  I want them to feel comfortable talking about their issues and not feel bad because I’m sick.  It’s free therapy to listen to someone else.  Offer advice only if they ask for it.  It’s the best way I know to get out of my own head and stop worrying about my issues.

11.  I hate asking for help.  It’s at the top of my list of the most difficult things to do.  It’s proves how much I struggle to be humble and I lack humility.

12.  My mind is my worst enemy.  I assume the worst and I don’t trust people.  Find ways to calm and quiet the mind.  Writing helps, but I’ve been lazy and avoiding it because it’s become difficult for me again.

13.  My body, mind and skills atrophy very quickly when I don’t use them.

14.  I can be very whiny and ungrateful.  They are two of my worst qualities

15.  Being uncertain about my mortality, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I regret the most and what I missed out on because of my poor choices. When I reflect on all the wasted time and heart ache I created, I wonder if I will actually make changes in my life if I make it through my current situation.  I’ve dodged several bullets in the past and continued on the path I was on withouth changing one iota.

16.  I want to pass along what I’ve gone through to others so they can learn from my mistakes.  But many people are like me and only learn the hard way.

17.    I place an enormous amount of emphasis on outward appearance.  I have no confidence in myself when I don’t look a certain way.  I feel no one could ever be interested in me with the way I look now.  Recently, I went out with friends to a bar I used frequent and I was embarrassed for people to see me.  I couldn’t look them in the eye.

18.  I’m scared of death.  But I’m more scared of living a life where I can’t look the way I want or live in the manner I’ve become accustomed to.   I worry more about money, success and my appearance than I do my health.   I’ve even said to myself I’d rather die than continue a life where I’ve lost the things I place so much value on.

19.   I’m a hypocrite.  I struggle to apply what I say and write when I’m facing adversity.

20.  I want and crave what’s not meant for me to have, especially the wrong people.

21.  Lately I make strange observations.  The other day I was taking a dump, I looked down and noticed I have a divot above my dick.  It almost looked like a camel toe.  I’ve gotten fat since surgery and now I have upper dick fat.  I feel like upper dick fat will be hard to get rid of too, like the last bit of fat to go when dieting.

22.  I deal with my problems through humor.  Occasionally I make jokes about having cancer.  Some of my friends think it’s in poor taste and get mad at me for it.  I know cancer isn’t a funny subject, but laughter is healing and good for your soul.  It’s empowering in a way to laugh at something so serious.  Then I wonder if I haven’t had cancer long enough to be able to make jokes.  Is there a time limit?

23.  I forgot how healing music can be.  Social Distortion has been there for me through many hard times in my life.

24.  I’ve never seen so many commercials for cancer treatment centers before I was diagnosed.  Of course I haven’t watched this much TV in years.

25.  I struggle to finish what I start.  I love starting new ventures (businesses, relationships, hobbies).  I’m so excited being involved with the creation of anything new and dragging it into existence.  Once it’s up and running the hard work begins. Then I want to pass it off and look for something new.  It’s ironic because I hate starting over.  I tend to regret not staying the course and watching them bloom or fail.

26.  I hate everyone’s causes on social media.  My feed is filled with an absurd amount of poorly thought out memes, left and right wing propaganda, and ignorant nonsense people stand firmly behind.  I hate your opinions, even if I agree with it.  I think people are so blindly bound to their beliefs they become unable to see the other side of the equation.  Have you ever heard the statement, “strong opinions held loosely?”  The majority of what you’re saying may have credence, but your basis for the belief and your reasoning doesn’t have much validity.  I’m sure people think my writing is stupid and asinine as well, so touché!

27.  Doctors don’t know as much as we would like to believe.  But they know more than I do.  Sometimes I should shut up, listen to them and stop pretending it doesn’t apply to me.

28.  Every time I think I have something figured out I’ll usually prove myself wrong in the future.  For example, I was dabbling in the stock market over the last 6 months.  I was quickly up $40,000 in profit.  I decided I knew what I was doing and had the market beat.  I made larger investments and lost my $40,000 profit plus another $10,000 of my initial investment in the last two months.  I don’t know what I’m doing, its obvious.

29.  I hate this saying but it’s true, “Time takes time.”  Sometimes you can’t do much except wait to heal before you are able to move on.

30.  People will crush you and walk on your heart if you let them.  It will suck and hurt so bad that you may want to die.  People say it’s meant to direct you to something better for your life.  I don’t know if that statement is true.  What I do know is people leave scars on your heart and your life.  Wounds heal but scars remain.

31.  Shitty, horrible things will happen to you that you can’t explain.  Maybe karma exists and I’m being punished for being a bad person.  Maybe it’s simply a case of shit happens.  Possibly it’s a combination of both.

32.  Continuing to live and try is a choice.  Sometimes a difficult one.  But unless you have a death sentence, the rest of your time on earth is up to you and how you choose to view it and live it.  I’m not saying things will get better and you will live happily ever after.  However, you’re the only one who has even the slightest chance of making your life fulfilling.

33.  I’m a time wasting motherfucker.  One day I spent six hours straight texting and looking at social media while trying to prepare myself to take a shower.  I spent the better part of the last five weeks doing very little that constitutes living.  It was my choice and one I regret.

34.  Sometimes life is going to seem like it’s never going to get better.  Sometimes it won’t.  Sometimes really shitty people will be blessed with great lives (at least it appears so from the outside) and so much of what you may covet.  Life’s funny that way.  Try not to worry about them.  Focus on how you can make your life better.

35.  I make my daily to-do lists that are excessively long.  When I cross off all the items on the list I feel my day is successful.  When I don’t achieve them I feel stressed and I shame myself.  I haven’t finished a single list since surgery.  I’m going to try to simplify my life by having 1-2 items every day that are themes of what I need to focus on to make my life better.

36.  I used to say long winded prayers that went on forever.  I had a format I had to follow before I could end the prayer and I had to make sure I hit every point.  Now I’m making them short and asking for the 1-2 things I need help with in my life right now.  I’m sure God is busy and has better things to do than listen to my obsessive ramblings.

37.  Even facing uncertainty about my life I still fear doing what I want with my life and taking risks.  I also fear unimportant things like how people will view me or judge me.  In the end most people won’t remember your successes or failures.  Many won’t even remember you.  Do whatever makes You happy.  Do things for yourself

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