Existential Conflict

I have terminal cancer and a potentially life threatening seizure disorder. My cancer is currently being held at bay and I haven’t had a seizure in over a year. This is good, very good, but…

It’s critical that I don’t do anything that will risk reducing my seizure threshold. I stay hydrated. I get as much sleep as I can. I manage my stress (or reduce it). I avoid situations where I will get too stimulated – or at least recognize the symptoms and politely excuse myself to a quiet place. I manage any pain I have as best I can. I SHOULD get more exercise, and resolve to do so this year.

I am a stay at home mom. I do all of the mom things I’m supposed to and like all moms, I wonder if I’m doing enough. I love being with our kids every day – even when they are driving me up the wall. A seven-year old with an endless supply of energy and an eleven-year old with…well, she’s eleven…can provide any number of challenges. In my role as a SAHM, I also largely manage the household. I’m a wife to an amazing man, who supports his family in so very many ways. He’s my rock and he helps me manage everything I’ve mentioned above.

I don’t love the cancer/seizure part of my life, but I’m not truly dying…yet. I do love being a mom and a wife. I’m pretty damn lucky and have no major complaints.

Yet, I frequently have this feeling like I’m not doing enough. Maybe it’s because in my past life (pre-diagnosis) I was incredibly busy. Maybe it’s SAHM guilt for all of those other moms who are managing it all with grace, love and super powers. I used to have a career and eventually I hated what I was doing and dreamt of being able to stay home with our kids. I can’t say I’m a fan of how that dream came true, but here I am, a SAHM. But is that really enough for me.

Right now, I’m a professional cancer patient (to quote John Green) along with being a SAHM. I read all of these stories about Super Survivors who go off to change the world in some brave and courageous way or another. They got that ‘my life has meaning and I have to seize the opportunity’ bug and they go off to do amazing things that make people wonder ‘how did he/she do that?’ or ‘he/she is so inspiring!’ We hear those stories, but those amazingly inspired people are in the extreme minority if we look at the big picture. Every other cancer fighter/survivor is just like any other person in this world – except for that cancer part. That doesn’t make them any less special, but how many of them feel like they need to leave their mark on the world or their life was wasted?

Maybe it’s just my own insecurities shining through and 99.9% of cancer patients/survivors know they’ve left their mark without needing to run off and save the world. To be honest, I know that too.

I still wonder if I’m doing enough. If I go find a job, would it be too stressful and exhausting? Would it cut into my time with the kids? Would the dog become depressed and resentful for being left alone for hours each day? Would anyone hire me knowing that I’ve got regular doctor appointments and could get sick at any point? Does that matter? But honestly, I don’t really want a job – just the thought of it makes me anxious.

So, as the new year begins, the kids go back to school and we fall back into a regular routine, I will find things to fill this gap. I will find a way to feel more productive with my days. I will get off my butt and do something about it. I will relish every day that I have with my kids, even when they’re literally bouncing off the walls or being tweenagers. I will escape on occasion to spend time with my husband so we can have quiet time to talk and be alone without the wall bouncing surrounding us. I will be a professional cancer patient without feeling the need to save the world. Not everyone can be ‘Super Survivors’ and that’s okay.

Signed,

Striving to be satisfied with ‘Normal’

10 thoughts on “Existential Conflict

  1. I think you are providing an amazing role model for your kids & others – a SAHM whomis tackling this challenge with grace. Keep up your blog so that others can learn from you!

  2. You and I are in the same boat where that 2nd paragraph is concerned, Karen. Don’t ever forget you have a friend right here and we’re going through this together. I am here to tell you that you ARE a SUPER survivor and you ARE doing AMAZING things! Staying home with children and raising them is no walk in the park; I know cause I did it. It was damn hard, exhausting work (and the most fantastic at the same time) and I didn’t have my cancer yet. I KNOW how hard it is and to think of all you go through and still manage to play?? You, Karen, are SUPER inspiring and AMAZING. (((HUGS)))

    • Hi Jen! We are definitely united in the fight against this ridiculous beast.

      We are all inspiring and heroic, even if we don’t run 6 marathons on 6 continents in 6 days or other unrealistic achievements for the normal human (even without cancer or rare diseases attacking our bodies)

  3. Your blog has always been amazing to me. Keep up the great work and give yourself a break. But I get it. What you are feeling isn’t unique to those with cancer. Am I doing enough, making enough of a mark? I hope so.

  4. I have been feeling similarly as of late. I feel this “need” to go do “GREAT THINGS” in honor of Rare Diseases: start a foundation, raise money, etc. etc. you get my drift. But, it’s all I can do to get out of bed some days! I too am now having seizures (not grand mal) and am struggling severely (as we ALL are)….I try to focus on the little things (like volunteering when I can, etc.) but I still feel at times, “I HAVE TO GO BIG.” I have no clue why that IS?!

  5. I’m sorry you’re developing new negatives – I think you’ve got enough to manage already!

    I think we feel like we need to ‘go big’ is because the people who do are glorified in the media. It can make the rest of us feel ‘less than’ We intelligently know we aren’t ‘less than’, but it tugs at our desires to be better, stronger, and frankly – invincible.

    Stay strong and continue to fight!

  6. Pingback: Thoughts on potential employment | everydayleft

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