You know when someone sees you after they haven’t seen you recently, and they say, It’s good to see you!? I like to respond: It’s good to be seen.
I’m currently in my third remission. ‘Cause apparently two just weren’t enough. This 3rd trip around the cancer block has forced an identity shift: I’ve emerged a patient advocate. My next event in that role is a public workshop I’m delivering in March for survivors, caregivers, and anyone else interested in the topic:
EMPOWERED PATIENT-DOCTOR COMMUNICATION: Getting What You Need From Your Doctor
6:00-7:30 PM EST
Thurs, March 10, 2016
Location: SHARE Main Office NYC
Here’s the deal: Our doctors play a key role in our health care. While medical intervention is a critical part of the picture, it’s not the whole picture. Good communication with your doctor not only can help you recover but also can help you heal. I will lead this workshop to introduce concepts you can use to effectively communicate your needs to your health care team.
It’d be good to see you. It’ll be good to be seen.
As part of getting through my 3rd bout of cancer, I found myself doing a lot of speaking, but I wasn’t able to engage in any artistic collaboration with The Identity Shift Project. I had a lot of energy the first two months into my chemo, and then, well, things changed, and I had to adjust. I didn’t want that to be the case, and the truth is, I didn’t even want to discuss it. Chemo might be kicking the crap out of my cancer, but it ends up doing the same to me. Which means I’m not good for much.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: Typically, you get better with practice. Talented people still need to practice – actors, musicians, dancers, singers, writers, artists, athletes. They never stop practicing to improve their craft; training to improve technique – rehearsing, trying new things, refining what they already know. People who are experienced travelers, leaders, doctors, activists, soldiers, first-responders – and others who may wind up in crisis-ridden situations – all know there are certain routines they go through to be successful. Each new experience they have helps them learn to manage the next one better. While this may not be easy, it’s doable.
How does this work with cancer? Each time I get re-diagnosed, I know the drill. I know the tests, the scans, the drugs. I know the things to expect around losing my hair, diminished memory, and worsening vision. I know most of the side effects. It’s not easy, but I get through it. My ability to apply makeup has definitely improved over the past few years. I know how to care for all my wigs. Most important, I know how to communicate with my medical team to get what I need. After all, I’m a professional patient, with years of practice.
The stuff you can’t see – my morale, my thoughts and feelings, my ability to concentrate and drive things forward beyond myself – in short, the mental act of projecting myself into the future – managing that just gets harder with each new recurrence. I thought or maybe hoped it would get easier, because, hell, it’s like PRACTICE, right? Ah… nope. For me, it gets harder. Remission isn’t just this big relief – I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is, and I don’t take it for granted, but… it becomes the odd waiting period in-between, while I’m acting as if it won’t come back (because there’s always the chance that it won’t). This isn’t to say that I’m not making the most of my time, or I sit around feeling sorry for myself. I’m focused on my family and being of service in whatever capacity I have. Cancer interferes with plans. The question is always to what extent does it interfere, and to what extent can you adjust?
I’m adjusting. This year I will make fewer pronouncements about what’s next with The Identity Shift Project. Remission is something you don’t practice, and never master – in fact, the first part of this sentence sounds utterly ridiculous. Time to reframe this. The one key thing is to start collaborating again. Practice that. Now. And from that, anything is possible.