Is Slow the Way to Go?

Is Slow the Way to Go? Samantha Yankov

When given a choice between getting through chemotherapy as quickly as possible and allowing yourself more time for rest by taking it slowly, which would you choose?

by Samantha L. Yankov

I have never been a devotee of efficiency. I am a fan, sure, but I am most assuredly the person who will take the scenic drive home even if it means adding a few extra minutes to my afternoon commute. I generally don’t change checkout lanes at the grocery store once I have settled in to the one I have chosen, and I almost always stop and smell the roses (or the lilacs or the hyacinth) when I walk. You see, for me, it seldom is about getting from Point A to Point B faster; the destination, while important, is often no more so than the journey.

You do not have to move through your healing in fast motion. You are allowed to go slowly, deliberately through this process, to rest.

However, if there is an unpleasant or daunting task before me, I do tend toward attacking it head-on and wanting it over sooner rather than later. I don’t like to procrastinate, and even less do I like having to do something more than once. But more than anything, I dislike being a source of inconvenience to others. My tendency toward seeking pretty vistas and sweet-smelling flora is always tempered when and if it will cause stress or hardship or inconvenience to another human being. In other words, I will joyfully follow my bliss, but only when it causes no harm. 

So, when my oncologist said I had the choice to take my chemotherapy treatments every two weeks instead of every three, I took out my trusty calendar and planned what each scenario would look like barring any unforeseen complications or detours. I knew whichever one I chose, I had the full support of my husband, my children, my family, and friends. The fact that I was even given this choice during such a challenging time was affirming, if not a downright gift. 

The third week after my first treatment offered me a glimpse of what slowing down would mean: dinner out with friends, a bike ride with my husband, teaching my oldest son to drive, celebrating my youngest son’s birthday. Yet, even while I was enjoying each of these moments and feeling extremely grateful, there was a tiny voice inside me saying, “You know, if you took your treatment last Wednesday, you would already be one-third of the way there and that much closer to putting this behind you.”

I listened to this voice because it is such a familiar one: “Do this tough thing you have to do as quickly as you can, get it over with, and then you can stop inconveniencing everyone.”

I listened to this voice because it is such a familiar one: “Do this tough thing you have to do as quickly as you can, get it over with, and then you can stop inconveniencing everyone.”

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But instead of just listening to that voice, I decided to talk back: “You are not inconveniencing anyone. You are doing very hard work. You do not have to move through your healing in fast motion. You are allowed to go slowly, deliberately through this process, to rest. And you are most assuredly deserving of all the beautiful moments, of every good day.”

I will go in for each round 21 days after the previous one, with my heart full and my soul happy because I gave myself the gift of time – a gift so many of us readily give to others but forget or are reluctant to give to ourselves. 

The voice that strongly suggested I speed this up is quiet now, at long last understanding that when you give yourself the gift of time, time gives you the gift of you.

And what is better than that? Isn’t that what we’re all fighting for?

At a routine appointment at the end of April 2022, Samantha Yankov asked her doctor to look at a lump she had discovered on her neck and was very quickly diagnosed that May with non-Hodgkin diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. She has written a number of articles for Adoptive Families magazine about her own journey to parenthood and for ADDitude magazine about her son’s challenges with ADHD. A high school English teacher, Samantha lives with her husband and three teenage sons in Rhode Island.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, Winter 2023.

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