Metastatic breast cancer affects every part of one’s life. We focus a lot of attention on the obvious effects, which include every degree and notch on the scale of physical, psychological and emotional symptoms.
While feeling lousy this week and wanting to be in touch with people but knowing I did not have the strength to call or write to friends, and I started thinking about how cancer has changed my social life. For most of my life I have enjoyed a healthy social life. During the time of career building or growth, socializing sometimes suffered a bit. But for most of my life I worked hard and played hard.
I notice now that one of the biggest problems with managing my metastatic breast cancer is that I want desperately to keep in touch with friends, but I simply do not have the stamina to do what I want when I want. I can socialize or talk with friends, but I have to pace myself. I love talking and writing, but I do not have the sustained energy to write a lot of e-mail or letters like I used to do.
My careers in writing and in dance required constant communication, and I loved that part of the job. And, yet, now, what I love so much suffers. I no longer write the number of letters, long-hand or e-mail, to stay in touch; some days I want to call people and run out of steam before I can place the call. Friends say, Let me know when you want to get together. I want to see them. Setting up a lunch or dinner is a priority. But cancer is a hungry monster, sucking our strength and dominating every moment of the day whether we acknowledge it or not.
Socializing is still as important to us as it was previously, and maybe even more than some realize. The difference is that we may be unable to initiate it as we did in the past or even be unable to respond to calls or e-mail while we cope. In the end, a good relationship survives and maybe even grows with the understanding that simple communication is what really matters, regardless of the initiator.