On Quality of Life and Uncertainty

There are times when I wonder — after three bouts of breast cancer — what exactly do I want to do with my uncertain future? Without fail, there’s an immediate after thought: isn’t everyone’s future uncertain? None of us know how long we’ll live, how long the loves of our lives will live, how long our career will last, how long we’ll have friends nearby, how many dinner parties might be left, how many Christmas’s, how many bucket-list items will happen, how many, how much, what if… all that.

Quality of life, it turns out, is the summation of the small things that make normalcy feel normal. It’s the comfort of “knowing” you’ll see your child again soon, or awaken to your husband’s smile, or surprising them both with blueberry pancakes. Quality of life is all those seemingly neutral events that make a ho-hum day a day you can look back on and embrace as special, or a sweet image lodged in your memory. It’s living without the constant awareness that no matter how hard you might wish otherwise, it’s all going to end. It might end piece by piece as loved ones die. It might end in an explosive disaster. The point is, it will end: it’s inevitable.

To be completely honest, there’s a great deal to be gained by denying the inevitable. You get to have those moments that make up the fabric of your life without a note on your calendar that lets you know when this or that, he or she, will end.

Living with a disease you’re told will probably cause an earlier death than you might have had is a balancing act between denial of death and grabbing each moment as fully as you can. But when kept in good balance, breast cancer can be one of the best gifts you’ll ever get.

Speaking only for me, that brings me peace.

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