Cancer's Effect on the Concept of Time

by GregP_WN

You have probably experienced this before throughout your cancer journey, you look at the clock and it says 1:05, then after what seems like 30 minutes, it's only 1:09. Cancer and the anxiety we have when trying to navigate through everything has an effect on our concept of time. It seems to happen in both directions too, it will speed time up or slow it down, depending on the situation.

Be On Time

My Father was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at the age of 71. I remember sitting with him in the exam room at the VA Hospital when the doctor came in with his biopsy results. "Sir, you have prostate cancer." I remember being shocked when my Dad just broke down and cried like a baby after hearing the results. I was shocked because I had never seen him show emotion like this before. He was always a big burly man who loved to live on the farm and tend to his animals.

Dad Navy

Dad During His Service Days

One of the things that the doctor said that day stuck with me and still does today. He was trying to comfort Dad a little and told him that he shouldn't worry too much about this cancer diagnosis because he would die of something else long before he died from prostate cancer. I remember thinking to myself that it didn't sound much like comfort, being told that you would have a heart attack or stroke or some other life-ending event before the cancer gets you. But, we got the gest of his statement. His meaning was that prostate cancer is usually slow growing and can be controlled. Dad was 71 at the time of diagnosis, and the doctor said a man of Dad's age would live a normally expected lifespan even with prostate cancer. He was more likely to have another problem, so he shouldn't be worried about dying from prostate cancer. 

My Mother was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer just two months after Dad died. She had been dealing with a nagging cough that wouldn't go away and had been told that it was from a variety of causes. Emphysema, bronchitis, infection, etc. were stated as the cause, but the cure for each didn't help. After some urging from the family, a scan was done and revealed the true problem. She had a lung cancer mass that fully involved her right lung. When giving the family the bad news the Doctor said in a cold manner that she would die from this in six to eight months and that when it happened it would be a horrible death as he explained, a lung cancer patient basically drowns in their own blood. What a nice thing to say.......

Me And Mom At Bdp

Mom and I at a surprise birthday party my Wife threw for me. This was after Dad died, and before she was diagnosed. Time slips away.

Being the caregiver for both parents who died from cancer, as well as being a three-time survivor of two types of cancer over 29 years has given me ample opportunity to experience cancer's effect on the concept of time.

Cancer Time Comes in Two Forms

Time Drags

I have learned over the years that I have had to deal with cancer, that there's normal time, and then, there's "cancer time". What's the difference? Normal time is your normal life going along at what seems to be a normal pace. Everyone has a busy life it seems, and time seems to fly by. But when you're dealing with cancer, it seems to have different paces. At times, time seems to draaaaaaggggg by. 

Like when you're sitting in the chemo chair, staring at that bag waiting for it to finish dripping so you can get out of there. 

Or when you're in the hospital and you are stuck there waiting for your infections to be knocked out by your meds, or you are waiting to get released. Anyone who has been in the hospital knows the feeling when your Nurse comes in early in the morning and tells you that you get to go home today. Then, it takes all day long to actually get out of there. That's slow cancer time. 

Me And Dad

Dad and I after riding and splashing through the creek. It didn't last long enough.

Time also drags when things get urgent. Like when you're Dad has to be "rushed" to the ER because his bladder has sealed off and won't drain, causing serious problems. You are waiting for an ambulance and it seems to never come. 

Time drags when you are sitting with your Mother who is dying from lung cancer, and she has had some bouts of spitting up blood and you are waiting for the breathing treatments to start working, and for the blood to quit coming up. Ten minutes seems like an eternity when you're looking at her face that is filled with worry and fear that this is it.

Anyone who has had a serious surgery has experienced how time drags when you talk about how long it will take to heal. The Doctor says it will only be a couple of weeks and you'll be back on your feet. If you are the one laying on the couch in pain, unable to sleep, thinking that you won't be able to make it through the night, you know what "time dragging" is. 

If you have ever experienced an event in the hospital, like a hemorrhaging vein in your throat and your mouth is filling up with blood, while you're waiting for the "rapid response team" to make it through the hallways of the hospital and keep you from drowning in your own blood, you know what it's like to wait for life-saving measures, and how long it seems to take.

Mom 1945

Mom in 1945, so young and pretty.

Four hours seems like a long time in some instances, like when you're laying in your hospital bed staring at the clock waiting for the last few minutes of "every four hours" to tick by so you can squeeze the Nurse's button to get your pain medicine. That time is riding on a turtle!

In terms of recovery, time seems to be like molasses in January, it crawls by when you're trying to make progress in your recovery. Whether you are going through rehab to get your legs and arms working like they should again, or if you are dealing in long-term recovery waiting for years for your body to get back to where it once was. These seem to take forever.

Time Flys

You've surely heard the phrase "time flys". When you're dealing with cancer and looking for more time, time flys. Anyone that has been given a poor prognosis and an "expiration date" knows the concept of "time flys". 

Time Flies

When the Doctor told us that Dad needed to go home and be enrolled in hospice care because he only had a few weeks to a month to live, time flew by. We thought that we would have time to catch up, make arrangements, talk about things that needed discussing. There wasn't enough time.

Maybe you have been getting treated at a cancer center miles away from your home and your family and you are coming home on the weekends. Blink your eyes twice and the weekend is gone and it's time to go back to get treatment again on Monday.

Sometimes, a visit from an old friend isn't long enough. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you tend to look fondly on your relationships with good friends and loved ones. A surprise visit from one of them seems to fly by, even if it's half of an afternoon. 

When you have spent more of your life fighting or living with cancer than you have lived cancer-free, you get the feeling that your life has slipped away. Many of the things that you thought you would be able to do in your life never get to be experienced. Trips not taken, goals not reached, the new house not bought, and many other goals now seem out of reach. Time flys by years at a time when you are looking back on your life.

Me And Sweetie Maine Portland Head

Me and my Sweetie at Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine, before starting my treatment for my third diagnosis. We were gone for a couple of weeks on a trip she had wanted to take for years. It wasn't long enough.

If you are able to sit and talk to your Mother about old family times, looking through boxes of old pictures, an entire night can slip away in what seems like minutes. 

And in both parent's case, when you're sitting on their bedside holding their hand as their time slips away. Time flys, you want five more minutes .

How has having cancer had an effect on your concept of time? Has it dragged by? Or does it seem to fly? Or maybe like in my case, a mix of both?

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