For some the dependency vs. independency thing isn’t that big an issue but I’ve always loved independence and responsibility.

Getting diagnosed with Cancer at the age of 22 (a week before turning 23) totally changed my life as it relates to independence and responsibility. Being presented with cancer at a young age comes with major obstacles and I can only imagine how tough it is to also have a young family depending on you. I wasn’t at that stage thankfully but instead I had an awesome family there to support me.

I had just graduated from university and moved out of my parents’ house six months before my diagnosis. Man did I love living on my own. But moving home was definitely the best step for me. I was in hospital for 38 days during round one chemotherapy and it kicked the shit out of me, or so I thought at the time (I later learned just how a shit kickin’ felt). The physical pain and infections weren’t too bad but I lost about 20-25 pounds and my energy tanked. So when I left hospital I really needed the support of my family and was blessed to have had it.

This was an ideal set-up in the short-term but my desire for independence would kick in every now and then. And when my mind would wander I tried to focus on what was most important and that is where I tried to put my energy. Sometimes this was a great theory that sucked when applied, but generally that’s how I approached things.

My treatment and recovery lasted a long time. I had three rounds of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, was away for three months from home for that, and then upon returning home got an infection that put me in Intensive Care for a month in a coma. By the time I had mildly recovered from that run of experiences it was 18 months after my diagnosis. I was over 50 pounds lighter, a whole lot weaker and had a few massive complications from my treatment and related experiences. This combined to make independence that much more of a challenge. Around 21 months after diagnosis I made what turned out to be my second of three “moves out” from my parents’ house.

Getting back that part of my independence was a major step. It is satisfying to take care of yourself and through most of my cancer experience that was tough for me to do. I always tried to be appreciative of the huge efforts my parents and some buddies made to help me out but it was one of those situations that you were grateful for but didn’t want at the same time. Help doing the smallest things made the biggest difference for me. I’m what I like to call a “proactive patient,” which basically means I’m a big pain in the ass for docs and nurses sometimes, but I always qualified that with “hopefully I’ll be equally rewarding!”

I felt that it was important for me to be an active participant in my treatment, so when it came to any significant decision it was all me. I found mostly the independence that I had to let go of was physical and financial, which are tough to accept when you are a young adult.

I think another big factor that helped me get through it was picturing things on the other side of treatment, or how I’d be in the future. I had my tough times and moments when I was afraid and sad but generally for the most part I never doubted if I would get through to the other side.

This Chinese proverb wraps up my mind set relating to dependency in tough times: “Be like a blade of grass, rooted, yet wiling to lean.”

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