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How Cancer Shifts Your Perception Of Time

My friend Marie has stage 4 colon cancer; she’s been told she’ll be on chemo for the rest of her life. But somehow through this ordeal, Marie, the mother of two young boys, finds the strength to discover important lessons about living a full, rich life. A few days ago she blogged about how her perception of time, and the general rush to check off the minutiae of each day, has evolved since her cancer diagnosis. Here, very slightly edited, is what she wrote:

By Marie Colantoni Pechet
Guest Contributor

Recently I was sitting in heavy traffic, and no matter what lane I chose, it seemed like the other lane moved faster. Eventually, I decided to commit to staying in the right lane and trying to relax about it all. Taking a deep breath, I watched a white Jeep pass me in the left lane and I noticed its license plate. Sure enough, about 20 minutes and a mile later, I found myself sitting behind that exact white Jeep.

Realizing that hurrying doesn’t always get me there sooner doesn’t stop me from racing to get ahead in other aspects of life. For example, my to-do list seems to be never-ending, leaving me feeling like I am always behind and that there isn’t enough time.

marie pechet and her sons, 2011I suppose that feeling is normal. Then add chemotherapy to the mix. Every other week, I am basically out of commission. So I try to cram two weeks’ worth of living into one week.

As I’m sure you know, you can be efficient and even rush around, but some things can’t be rushed. I can’t rush traffic or how fast the train runs. I can’t rush conversations with the kids, reading a book to them, doing a project, watching a movie together, or being available as they do their homework. I can’t rush time connecting with family and friends.

When I was initially diagnosed with cancer, I became conscious of time and specifically, I held a sense of having a finite amount of time. I thought a lot about how I was spending it.

For example, I could justify seeing my oncologist as investment that could pay off in having more time. But waiting to see my oncologist? That felt like wasted time and I raged internally as minutes turned to hours.

Away from the cancer center, I resented standing in any kind of line, wanting to scream out, “I have stage IV cancer and I don’t have time for this!” From there, my little fantasy progressed in one of two ways: Continue reading