“What if?”

In my previous post I talked about the value of time, something I am beginning to be very aware of in my life. Being on fortnightly treatment, those days become markers in my life, and they seem to come round with increased speed.In the last few weeks I have been able to fit in some really exciting projects, and I have been asked numerous times about my working life before cancer, by people I have only recently become acquainted with. Therefore they don’t know anything at all about my experience.

However, they seem genuinely surprised by the variety and quality of the projects that I am involved with. This causes me an element of internal frustration! In my regular working life, I would be doing a lot of difficult negotiations, for fun, and I would be selling goods and services, around the world. So the work I am able to do now feels somewhat insignificant by comparison. This prompted my worst thought for a long time. What if I didn’t have cancer?

I tried very hard not to think about that, as I knew it would take me down a path I shouldn’t really go down, but I was in a very stimulating conversation, with someone who also had their career cut short by cancer. They weren’t thinking at all like that, and are doing great things in the cancer world, including writing a book. They had accepted how their life was going to be, and are living their new life now. Not necessarily happily, but without the emotion of anger to drag them backwards.

This made me feel slightly envious, as I still struggle to accept my own situation, and am battling my demons, on some occasions pretending to myself, that things will eventually return to how they were. I don’t really know why that is, as I am a very realistic person, but I seem to have some sort of block in accepting that my old life will not return.

My work has become a lot more ‘joined up’ and public now. My fund raising, speaking and writing, function as one, and this blog is the heartbeat of it. So without thinking too much, I have created an international presence now. This has all happened because of my illness, and something that I am only able to do in between treatment regimes. That sometimes feels like trying to drive the car, whilst the handbrake is still on!

Why did the “what if?” question enter my mind. It hasn’t done for a while. After 6 years I would have expected those feelings to have almost ceased, but obviously that fire is still burning inside. I think my frustration, was also for the other person, although they showed none at all. I was angry that they too had lost the opportunity to fulfil their potential in a work environment. Cancer has certainly given me new experiences, which I would never have encountered, however it has also taken away, many of the major ingredients of my old life, without asking!

Possibly, that might be the answer. I love doing the work that I do now, but it wouldn’t have been my chosen path. I would have still been on the crazy ‘hamster wheel,’ chasing work and money. In some masochistic way, I enjoyed that life and it stimulated me. If a slower path was an option that I had decided on, that would have been ok.

When I was diagnosed back in 2007, I was towards the top of my game, and I always felt that there was a lot more to come. In many respects I feel cheated, that the opportunity to fulfil my working potential was taken from me. however I also feel angry when I see what it does to others. Maybe I have used that anger positively, to enable me to do what I do now? However it still feels like negativity in my mind. Did I fail to reach my potential, or am I doing it in a different way? I have to now believe the second option!

Do you ask yourself this question, with anything you are involved in? Maybe you have had choices and made the wrong ones?


  1. It’s so hard to know, isn’t it? If it wasn’t one thing that brought you here, it may have been another. The only thing that really makes me say, “what if” is the fertility question . . . what if I hadn’t taken birth control, what if I had frozen my eggs, what if I had already had children, and so on.

    Lately, when people ask how I am, I tell them “I am here.” I am here, right now, and sometimes it’s that simple. (At least for me, makes things more manageable to look forward than to look back, and when it feels hard the best I can do is remind myself that I am here.)

  2. Hi Catherine.

    You are so right. There are many different roads that may lead to the same destination. The birth control one is a big question!

    I think I will take your tip about, “I am here.” It certainly is simple. I try very hard, not to look back and I knew it would be an issue as soon as I did! That is why I wrote the piece.

    So lovely to hear from you Catherine. I wish you all the best and thx for taking the time to write your comments. I know how much, people enjoy reading them.

  3. Hi Chris,

    Cancer has also changed my life. I am actually very grateful. I don’t look back. I was so busy with the business of life that I’d lost the connection with my soul and what is really important. Cancer has been the abrupt jolt on my path, that made me pause, reconnect and reconsider. It hasn’t always been easy, but I do have to say that it’s been worthwhile.

    I heard an interesting sermon this morning. I visited a spiritual, non-denominational church with a friend and while the sermon focused on humility, part of the discussion particularly fascinated me. It talked about turning within to search for answers and meditating on the following questions:

    1. What do I need to know?
    2. What do I need to do?
    3. What do I need to change or release?
    4. What is the next step?

    For what it’s worth, I pass this along to you today. Carpe Diem!

    Pat Wetzel
    Founder and Member, Anti-Cancer Club

  4. Hi Pat.

    I understand everything you mean. It seems like we both have very similar views. Cancer certainly is a very big jolt.

    Sometimes I feel like I am being greedy, as I should be grateful for being alive. But at times, I slip back to my old ways, and want more! I guess it is that way of thinking that has got me here. Never quite satisfied with what I have!!! But it certainly keeps me pushing on.

    That sounded like a very interesting sermon that you attended. Thank you for the above, I find those questions very useful. Something that we can all use in our lives.

    Carpe Diem to you too Pat! I thank you for your comments and enjoy following your work.Chris

  5. I think my feelings are affected differently, in that I was 65 when I was told I had cancer and so was already retired. OK I meant to spend more time looking after my grandson and doing other stuff, being active, but I do still see him. Just need to ration my activities carefully to allot what spoons I have. I think I am luckier than younger friends who have been diagnosed, two who are no longer here.I feel a bit guilty as I am older. It seems unfair. I feel I shouldn’t resent the way life is limited now,being older.

  6. Hi Va

    I understand that you have a slightly different perspective on things.I can certainly empathise with many of the points you have mentioned above. In fact I also have written about the guilt I feel, in my survivorship period.

    A cancer diagnosis can certainly play havoc with your emotions, and as I mention frequently, it affects us all differently. I have learned that there is no right or wrong way of feeling. Only what is right for you. Unfortunately, many of us feel resentment, but personally I also feel gratitude for the extra time I have been given.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your feelings with the readers. We certainly never stop learning, and we continue to learn from each other.

    I look forward to welcoming you back to the blog soon. My very best to you, Chris

  7. Chris I know what the problem with the buttons was. I enlarge the text of your page and if I reduce one level the buttons are not over the text.

    • Thx Vicky. I knew that there was no problem with the settings of the blog. Glad all is now resolved :)Chris

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