Live in the Moment
by Dave Balch
Dealing with cancer is not just about cancer; it’s about life with cancer. It’s about all of the stresses, joys, and responsibilities you already had in your life, in addition to the new stresses and responsibilities that come with serious illness. It’s easy to get bogged down.
Our situation was no different. When my wife was diagnosed, I decided that it was her job to get better and it was my job to do everything else. “Everything else” in this case meant doing all of her normal chores when she was unable to, plus scheduling the medical appointments, going to those appointments and doing most of the driving, buying the food, making the food, filling and refilling the prescriptions, and on and on; all of this in addition to my regular household chores and, incidentally, making a living.
I found myself worrying needlessly about things that might never happen, and I soon realized the importance of living in the moment.
Due to the stress and overwhelm, I found myself worrying needlessly about things that might never happen, and I soon realized the importance of living in the moment.
In any situation like this, there will be things you can control and things you cannot control. Try to spend your energy on those things you can control. It’s a skill that must be learned and practiced, but when you can effectively concentrate your energies on the things that will produce results, there will be a noticeable difference in your stress level.
Here’s a perfect example. It was in July when we learned that my wife’s treatment schedule would play out such that radiation treatments would be every day, five days a week, for six weeks beginning in December. We live in the mountains of Southern California, and we would have to drive to the city for each treatment. December and January weather can make for difficult driving, and I started to think of the possibilities: fog, snow, mud, rocks … What would happen to her if she couldn’t get down the mountain and missed one or more treatments?
I was working myself into a frenzy when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t do anything about this potential situation. I couldn’t adjust the timing of the radiation, and I obviously wouldn’t be able to control the weather. After all, the weather may be perfectly fine! I was simply going to have to put it out of my mind and let whatever was going to happen, happen.
Here’s a phrase that will help to remind you of this basic principle: “Don’t go there ’til you get there.” There was no sense in worrying about this situation in advance, and I could spend that same energy on something that would make a difference in her condition, comfort, or treatment.
Don’t go there ’til you get there. Easy to say. Hard to do. But, oh, so very important.
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Dave Balch founded The Patient/Partner Project and CopingUniversity.com, both of which are focused on helping patients and partners deal with their challenges. You can contact Dave toll-free at 1-8-MORAL SUPPORT (1-866-725-7877).
Visit ThePatientPartnerProject.org for free Internet resources, including online progress reporting and a free email mini-course on “The Six ‘L’s’ of Caring and Coping.” Visit CopingUniversity.com for hours of free audio programs with world-class experts who offer fascinating insights and ideas on coping strategies.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2011.