Resetting the Baseline

February 7, 2018

*Most of this  post was written last Sunday. It still holds true 3 days later, so I'll go with it.


How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?


Given my last post on PTSD, if I told you I was at a 7, you might think I was either over the trauma, or in denial. I don’t think either is the case.


A friend who went through cancer a few years ago said after a near-death experience, we eventually all eventually lose the sense of impending demise and go on with our lives because humans aren’t built to live with the keen awareness of our mortality. And yet, even after a life-affirming first year post-cancer, that hasn’t been the case for me.


When the cancer stayed away for a decade, and then fifteen years, I was lulled into the thought that it was probably gone for good, especially after my oncologist told me I was cured. … despite the fact the kind I’ve had always returns.


So then when it did finally recur, I became spooked. Gun-shy. It’s hard now to forget the inevitability of recurrence and the toll it takes.


The whole experience and the trauma around it raises the question, Can a person with a terminal diagnosis live with the constant acknowledgement of their condition and still be “happy?”


I’m beginning to see signs of hope that it may be possible. It just requires resetting my baseline.


If I wake up every morning and answer the happiness question with “Statistically, I’ll be getting some kind of neurological symptom any day now that will signal the Return of the Big C,” the number on the happiness scale’s going to hover somewhere below a 3.


If I can wake up most mornings and answer the happiness question with “I realize and accept that my situation is less than ideal, and may not change for the better unless they find a cure. Given that fact… well, I had a good sleep, it’s a beautiful day and my family is healthy, so let’s say a 7 out of 10 on the happy scale.”


Trauma is definitely still a factor in my daily life. And as I told my brother a few days ago, I’m walking on the knife’s edge of depression. But given that… well, we got chocolate pastries on sale, it was a great day for a run, and my brother and I had a long conversation that included planning a backpack trip in the Rockies in July.


Given all that, I'll raise my 7 to an 8.





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