• Mark Pajak

Moving Forward



Brrrr, it's winter in Wyoming and the snow is piling high. This morning it was below zero and my fingers got numb from sweeping snow off the driveway and sidewalk in front of our house. I guess I need warmer gloves.

Recently, my wife and I went on a trip to the east coast. We had planned on staying for 13 days but I had to cut the trip short because I did not want to get off my treatment schedule. You see, the 10th day of our excursion was the day I was scheduled to get an infusion of chemo. So, I flew back early and kept the appointment at the cancer center to get my infusion.

At some point during the flight back, it occurred to me that flying back early was just another in a long line of compromises that I have chosen to make in order to continue moving forward in managing this disease. It was tangible evidence of my acceptance that I have cancer.

Acceptance and compromise. It seems to me that the two go hand in hand.

The definition that I use for acceptance is this: acknowledging reality just as it is; without censoring or denying while being open to possibilities.

A definition of the word compromise that I found reads “the act of conceding or yielding after first denying or resisting for the sake of settlement.”

And that for me hits the proverbial nail on the head when trying to describe what living with cancer is all about – acceptance and compromise.

Living with and trying to thrive with cancer requires, on my part, acceptance and compromise.

I must continue to admit and accept that I have cancer. I am living with Multiple Myeloma. I am not like others who are not dealing/living with Multiple Myeloma. I could wish all I want that I did not have cancer but what good would that do? It is a lot easier to move forward when I admit and accept my condition. Not only is it easier for me but also it is easier for those around me.

I would like to write that acceptance came easy but then I would not be telling the truth. Acceptance did not come quick and easy. It took some time for me to accept my situation and to accept some compromises about my new life with cancer. There was, and at times still is, more than enough complaining. I had to learn to feel comfortable with making concessions. Frankly, that is an on-going process. At times, accepting the situation and making concessions can still lead to moments of doubt, self-pity, and emotional struggle. I also believe that is just human nature.

Each morning I take anywhere from five to nine pills. It is easier to swallow the medicine if I admit to myself that I need the medicine. It is easier for me to take the chemo pills because I accept that they are vital for me to maintain a lifestyle that I enjoy and desire. Acceptance of my condition leads me to compromise on those negative side-effects that could one day knock on my door and cause all sorts of “no good.”

I have found that acceptance frees me from wasting my time wishing it was another way. Accepting my cancer provides clarity for me when I must weigh the consequences of conceding or compromising about some aspect of my life as I manage moving forward.

Prior to my diagnosis, I loved having a beer with friends or a glass of wine before dinner. Now, however, having made a concession to my condition I no longer drink any alcohol. Do I miss the beer – yes, I do. However, the compromise I have made regarding drinking alcohol sits easily when I consider some possible negative consequences of drinking while on a chemo regime.

I leave vacations early for the sake of treatments. I wear a mask and try to limit my experiences with large gatherings for the sake of my compromised immune system. I used to love to ski and ice skate. Now, I accept that I must be more careful about falling and so skiing and skating are not so high on my list of winter-time activities.

My decision making is a reflection of the acceptance of a “cancer” reality. By accepting the reality of my MM and the need for compromise, I have found a measure of solace and peace. It certainly makes this cancer journey so much more doable.

Acceptance and compromise have been critically important for me. It has led me to the point where I can write that I like my life while living with cancer…well, at least most of the time. I mean come on now, who likes sweeping snow off a driveway in below zero temps?!

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