Worry Does No Good

Most of the time, I succeed at keeping my health off my mind. But sometimes the topic surfaces and swings a machete, as if it has been waiting just beneath the surface of my consciousness for the the ideal time to slash at me with a hatred unequaled in the universe.  In those moments, waves of hopelessness wash over me. I feel like I have no control over whether my body will give me another twenty years or another twenty seconds.

But I do have control and I know it. Not absolute control, but enough to dramatically increase my chances for longevity if I would only exercise that control. Exercise. The use of that word is coincidental, isn’t it? I should get regular exercise. Eat better. Reduce my intake of alcohol. Buy and try horse liniment on my awfully arthritic joints, the stuff a woman recommended to our minister.

Regardless of knowing I have a degree of control, and knowing what I should do, I have assiduously avoided those reasonable courses of action.  And I see no especially meaningful indication I will embark on that life-affirming change of habit and behavior. Instead, the evidence suggests I will continue just wishing. Just hoping. Not praying. But that might come next. Anything, it seems, other than the self-discipline and self-love, if that’s what it would be, to move me toward salvation. No, not that kind. Personal salvation. That kind.

I think part of the issue is this: it seems I keep getting hints from my body that lung cancer was just one of my problems. More recently, thanks to the x-ray my oncologist ordered but never bothered to tell me about, I am concerned about gall-stones. Or other maladies that could befall me. Thanks, in large part, to those damn bad habits over which I seem unable to exercise any self-control. Eating. Drinking. Vegetating. Avoiding exercise and motion and other such activities that might debate my mind about my body’s slothfulness. The exercise avoidance is actually a matter of getting incredibly winded after only mild exertion. For example, I just can’t seem to catch my breath for several minutes after I walk up the driveway to take the trash to the street for pickup.

Back to my health. I shouldn’t be worried, based on what the doctors tell me, but sometimes I do, anyway. Even though it’s been only two months since I completed my cancer treatments (I finished radiation first, then chemo shortly thereafter), I find myself wondering whether “they might have missed something.” And even if not, I learned shortly after my diagnosis that lung cancer tends to recur, either locally or at distant sites in the body. I read an article online this morning that includes these statements: “In fact, many patients with NSCLC have been cured by surgery. However, there are also many cases that fail to achieve a cure following surgery. In fact, 30% to 55% of patients with NSCLC develop recurrence and die of their disease despite curative resection.” Those significant percentages, I guess, contribute to my ongoing sense of…what is it…not really fear, but worry…or something. Not panic…I don’t know. Something. I know I should just get over it. There’s nothing I can do to stop cancer if it’s in my body. But, then, I keep going back to what little I’m doing about my overall health.

I hope these moods, whatever they are, don’t last forever. I hope I can get over the periodic feelings of hopelessness. Fortunately, those feelings don’t last long. But they seem to be more frequent and longer-lasting now than they were a month or two ago. I may be overstating what I’m feeling, too. I don’t think hopelessness is quite the right word. Maybe melancholy or despondency fit better. Or simply sorrow. Whatever the word, I need to find a way to put an end to those sensations. They haven’t interfered with anything but my mood so far, but I worry that they might. There’s that word again: worry. Worry does no good. I know this, intellectually. My emotions, though, seem to override my intellect far too often.

Damn. I need to get on with my day and wash this gloom out of my mind. I should replace my gloom with good news. I hired a handyman to work on the deck, replacing the people I fired. He will start on June 3 and expected the job to take three days. Good news. I hope. And I’m going to lunch with a friend today and out to dinner with my wife and, maybe, her sister tonight. The sun is shining. The temperature is moderate. Lots to be happy about. So get on with it, John!

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Worry Does No Good

  1. Thanks, Bev. I need to do something. I’ll try your suggestions. The thing is, I “know” this stuff, intellectually, but sometimes on an emotional level I can’t seem to get beyond things I recognize as artifacts…but that seem real. I’ll definitely do something to lift my mood. I appreciate your advice. You’re a good friend, the kind of friend everyone needs.

  2. bev wigney says:

    Many people who have been treated for cancer experience many of the feelings you’ve described. That’s why people often belong to support groups, or get some counselling. Many also take mild antidepressants. In any case, it’s not at all surprising that you are feeling some anxiety or concern over your health and future. A friend who was treated for Stage III breast cancer but could not tolerate the chemo or some of the recommended meds describes a feeling of having a killer stalking her all the time. Some people do describe it that way, or feelings of hopelessness. A bit of exercise probably would help you to feel better, even if it is just doing some chair yoga. You like music. Maybe some easy exercise like chair yoga with music turned on. It might lift your mood. I’m glad you”re having lunches with people and not just hanging around the house. The weather’s good. Maybe you can get out on some day trips. That is usually very helpful for blowing off melancholy.

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