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 great career will last, how long we’ll have friends nearby to play with, how many dinner parties might be left, how many Christmas’s, how many goals are realistic, 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 find a giggle here and there, or a sweet image that caught your eye. It’s living without the constant awareness that no matter how hard you might wish otherwise, it’s all going to end when we die. It might end piece by piece, as loved ones die. But most of the people I know hope they go first so they won’t need to live without their loved ones. And I know exactly what they mean.

So 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 which you’re told will probably cause you an earlier death than it might have been had you escaped your fate is a balancing act between denial of that early death and grabbing every moment as fully as you can. Well balanced, breast cancer can be one of the best gifts you’ll ever get.

And that brings me to balance.