2016 October 11

The Cancerous Mindset

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Composite portrait of Elliot before and after diagnosis, with the Cancer constellation in the background.

I've been putting off writing this one for a while, but the CT scan is today. We'll have the results by Thursday.

Obviously I can't speak for anyone's mindset save my own. These are a few changes I've discerned since getting my diagnosis—since Elliot-Then became Elliot-Now.

Elliot-Then regarded obituaries with equanimity; Elliot-Now measures every notice on a spectrum of envy to schadenfreude. “How come she made it to 90?” or “Only 36? Whatever happens, at least I got 10 more years.”

Elliot-Then was a more dedicated parent; Elliot-Now has a more selfish outlook. The kids are both in high school, and I take a far more hands-off approach. With time so jealously hoarded, I am loathe to spend it in parental vigilance—so more often, I wash my hands and rationalize that by this age they have already internalized whatever lessons they will apprehend. Likewise, Elliot-Then was entirely supportive of after-school activities; Elliot-Now resents Travel Hockey because it takes Anne away too often, for too long.

Elliot-Then was motivated; Elliot-Now finds it hard to start any project of significance. It's a paradox that disturbs me, but one I can't seem to shake. With the ultimate hard deadline potentially looming, I should be focused. I should be driven. But more often, Elliot-Now slips into escapism.

I've always had this inclination—it's why I love books and movies. The timelessness of falling into another era, another world, makes it easy to forget all the issues that permeate reality. It's like being a child again, lost in a dusty sunbeam filtering through the window of your grandparents' attic on a summer Saturday. But at the same time, there are things I don't want to leave unfinished.

Maybe I just need a real deadline instead of bell-curve probabilities. That's the curse of being a procrastinator.

Elliot-Then was midway through an ongoing evolution, part of a process that stretched both backward and forward in time. Elliot-Now is a chrysalis, waiting to see who will emerge from the cocoon:  Elliot-Survivor, or not.

Language has changed as well. “Forever” now means “as long as possible”. “Someday” comes with extra baggage: “Someday… if I live that long.” We want to plant a willow tree in the backyard, and my mind races ahead to imagine a cascading canopy sheltering a garden bench… someday.

Some words haven't changed. “I love you” still means forever—no matter how long forever is.