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Unkept Resolutions and Other After Cancer Revelations

Posted 6/28/2013

Posted in

  I suspect that virtually all of us, soon after diagnosis or while going through treatment, do some bargaining with God and promise some life changes. These resolutions (only loosely related to New Year's Resolutions which don't carry the same weight) range from changing our exercise, diet, and sleep patterns to being nicer to our weird colleagues to taking a long-delayed and desired trip to Paris. The bargaining part includes the resolutions which are associated with the Ten Commandments, and the resolution part is everything else.

  When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, I was heavily into the bargaining side of this equation. As many of you know, I was a single parent with a young daughter (and an older one in college) and was panicked about dying and leaving them motherless. I took care of the necessary legal arrangements and made the right financial plans, and then I pleaded with God to let me stay longer. Of course I rationally knew then and know now that my tactics made not a whit of difference in my longevity, but I could not help myself. A few years later, when the acute terror but not the longer worry had abated, I transitioned into the being nicer to myself side of things: manicures every week, fresh flowers in the house, bubble baths on demand.

  Then came 2005 and a second breast cancer. This time, I honestly can't recall much bargaining or many resolutions. It had become clear to me that I am who I am, that some small around-the-edges behavior changes were viable, but I was not suddenly going to become someone who did technical ice climbing or smiled sweetly when insulted. I had gotten better at not sweating the small stuff, and that surely has continued. I have also, over the past twenty years, gotten better at spending money (when I have it; I am never stupid about that) and at not saving the nice gift soap forever rather than immediately unwrapping and using it.

  This is a lovely essay from The New York Times about this. I give you an excerpt and a link to read more:

Life, Interrupted: Unkept Resolutions


In retrospect, a marathon so soon after my transplant was never a realistic or healthy option
for me. It did, though, teach me an important lesson: Surviving a health crisis changes you in
real and profound ways, but it doesn’t magically transform you into a healthier or better
person overnight. Cancer has made me mentally and spiritually stronger. But as my life
starts to go back to normal, I find that some of my old, bad habits are still lurking in the
I’m still struggling to figure out how to turn my resolutions into long-lasting change, but I’ve
learned this much: Getting healthy starts with accepting the fact that after two years of
cancer treatment, my body has taken a hit. Getting healthy means listening to my body —
and no longer comparing myself with other people at the gym. Getting healthy means being
satisfied with small, sustainable, incremental changes to my diet and lifestyle. I wanted to go
from zero to 60, but I’m learning to accept zero to 15.



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