In a conversation with a friend last night, my friend expressed the belief that this year will be better than last year was. I replied that I hoped so, but I don't get that feeling. My friend's reply was that it will be a good year because we will make it one. I understand what was meant by that, and I agree up to a point, but when I look at my accounting of what happened in 2016, much of what made it a good or bad year was totally outside my control.
That conversation got me thinking. I decided that a good follow up to my retrospective post about 2016 might be one that looks ahead to this new year. I have hopes, and I also have expectations. Sometimes my hopes line up with my expectations, but not always. It's a little like making football picks. The team you want to win isn't necessarily the team you expect to win.
So what do I hope for in 2017, and what do I expect? First of all, I both hope and expect that when I get my PSA tested on January 10th, and see my oncologist on the 13th, I'll get the news that my PSA has not risen at all. If anything, I expect it to drop further. If my PSA has started rising again so soon after starting on Xtandi, this train will go off the rails fast. But I don't expect that. I got a good ten months out of Lupron before my number started going up. Surely I'll get more than three months out of Xtandi. Won't I?
In fact, as I told friends at dinner Saturday night, I expect the combination of what I'm doing now to give me a year of good numbers. But that's assuming I'll be able to continue doing what I'm doing now. There's no guarantee of that. That's where my hopes and my expectations diverge.
I hope that the coverage I have for my health care will remain in place. Until last November, I had no doubt that it would. But the results of the last election have cast that in serious doubt. So while I hope to keep my coverage for as long as I need it, I do expect to lose it sometime this year. If that happens, I will have no way to pay for Lupron or Xtandi. Then I'll be in serious trouble.
I have no control over whether that happens or not. But if I do have to stop traditional treatment because I lost my coverage and can't afford private insurance, I'll be able to do what I've wanted to do from the beginning of this process; Just trust God. Ultimately, he will decide if I stay here, or he calls me home. And I'm OK either way.
I hope and expect to continue seeing my therapist for the rest of this year and beyond. Even if I lose my coverage, I hope to be able to continue, either as a pro bono patient, or with help from a friend. I hope and expect that one of those two will be available to me, if the need arises.
I hope that I will continue to be pain free. I'm thankful for every day that I don't have bone pain. But I don't expect that to last. Before the year ends, I expect to be dealing with pain. I am a total wimp when it comes to pain. I'm not sure how I'll handle that when the time comes.
I have travel plans twice in February. I hope and expect that I'll be fine for both of those trips. Maybe I'll need an extra nap after I arrive, or even a full recovery day from travel. I haven't gotten on a plane since my diagnosis. Flying has always wiped me out. Now it will only be worse. But my endurance will not get better with time, so better to travel now while I still can.
Those are things that I can't control; My energy level, my PSA, and my coverage. As much as I'd like to think I can control my cancer with lifestyle choices, I don't really believe I can. All of the links and articles you send me don't mean a thing to a Gleason 9 score with metastasis to spine and ribs. Ultimately, my cancer will do what it will do, and I'm not in control of that. God is.
But there are things I can control. Those things can make a huge difference in what kind of year 2017 turns out to be.
I hope and expect to have published my book by the end of this year. I hope and expect to get my ice cream on the market in 2017 as well. I hope and expect to produce my last CD project in the first quarter of this year. I hope and expect to still be working with the kids I'm helping to coach. Barring unforeseen complications, all of those things should come to pass, and they should all be major factors in how well this year goes for me.
Those things really lie beyond hopes or expectations. They are commitments. I will do these things, or die trying. And there are other commitments as well.
I'm committed to celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary in July. Come hell or high water, we will have our anniversary pictures taken to go on our wall, and I will not look like Cancer Man when we do. I will lead the band for the party. Nothing will stop me. I might have to recover for a week afterwards, but that will happen. Count on it.
I will continue to be proactive in making new friends this year. The friendships I made last year helped make the bad news not seem quite so bad. So I hope and expect to have made new connections. But that's a two-way street. As Bonnie Raitt once said, I can't make you love me if you don't. I hope you do, but I can't expect that.
Likewise, I will keep cultivating the friendships I have now. I tried to do that last year, and in most cases, it bore fruit. But a few fell by the wayside. There's a new standard of friendship that I've begun to apply to my life in the past several months, in light of my prognosis, in light of my limited remaining time on this planet: I only have time for the people who have time for me. It may seem harsh, but I feel like if you don't have time for me, we must not really be friends. To paraphrase Forrest Gump's mom, friendship is as friendship does.
So I hope and expect that all of my current friendships will have deepened and grown by the end of this year. But that's a two-way street too. I can only control my side of it. The rest is up to you.
I neither hope for nor expect a miracle cure or healing this year, or any year. You may have a hard time accepting my prognosis, but I don't. But I do expect God to keep revealing himself to me this year. And I commit to being open to whatever he wants to do in my life.
As the old saying goes, while we plan, God laughs. Things I haven't thought of will play a significant role in how good or bad 2017 is for me. That's true for all of us. That's why I place my trust in God alone. Circumstances are bound to change, and friends may fail me, but God never changes or fails.
I love my friend, but we don't get to determine what kind of year this is. God does. If I've learned one thing in this journey, it's that I'm not in control. Nor do I want to be. I'd rather be at peace. I have found that peace and joy come from relinquishing control. From realizing we can't fix everything. They come from accepting that fact and being fine with it. Not worrying about it. That's where I've tried to live my life ever since I was diagnosed. And I'm committed to staying there for as long as God wants to keep me around. #waroncancer