Googling survival rates of people with my cancer: Is that helpful?

RosebudJüri Mildeberg- Mildebergius. 
Painter, graphic artist, illustrator. 
Jüri lives in a small village in the Estonian countryside with his wife Piret, daughters Susanna and Saara, and two dogs Leijona and Tonttu (Lion and Elf). 

This morning I catch myself Googling survival rates for the cancer I have and end up feeling anxious about time. Later, I tell my husband Terry what I did and how I feel. He asks, “Was it helpful?”

Part of the answer to Terry’s question is “it’s a teeny bit helpful.” 

After last night’s heaping bowl of Neopolitan ice cream and knowing I’ve skipped my daily walking practice for several weeks, seeing cancer statistic reality in stark black and white renews my commitment to self-care. To do my wellness part. Sure, that’s helpful.

If I tell the truth, the answer to the question about that Google is “no.” 

It’s not helpful to head off into the future awfulizing and imagining what happens if I’m high risk on the follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma FLIPI index. You know, jumping on the thinking that I need to be hyper-vigilant, concerned, or worried as part of the I-have-an-incurable-cancer project.

Worry is such a waste of my time and energy.

I quickly turn my thinking around. 

Here’s what I remember.

The first two treatments were rigorous. My side effects were severe. I felt like I was just surviving. I had multiple large tumors. It’s so important saying this part out loud because I know I am not in denial about my situation nor am I a victim to cancer. Telling this part makes what happened next feel like a miracle.

When I go to the third treatment, I decide I will participate in my healing.

While sitting in the clinic waiting for my infusion, I begin my usual meditation. I begin to wish healing for myself and all others. I close my eyes and repeat, “May I heal. May all my friends (in this room) heal. May all people with cancer heal.” 

But then, I have this thought. Why not work with my infusion in a loving way. 

When my cyclophosphamide drip begins (the first of 5 meds in the R-CHOP regimen), I consciously eye and thank each drip for the healing and recovery that is in progress. I think about the lymphoma cancer cells and the drips with love. I close my eyes and see the tumors breaking up. (Later, I actually see the expelled pieces of tumor when I went to the bathroom.)

The first scan after my treatment surprises my doctor. “This is remarkable. I didn’t expect the tumors to be gone.” 

Three years of treatment later, my scans show no detectable cancer growth.

I share my Google apprehension and choice to love my cancer with friends today. Someone comes up to me afterward and says, “Susan, it sounds like your relationship with cancer is working.”

I like the idea of thinking of myself in relationship with cancer. I have a choice about how I respond to what shows up in my life and body. That's empowering.