How Your Perception of Time Changes After Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • As is appropriate in the New Year, I am reflecting on the nature of time, and how our perception of time changes after being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, such as breast cancer. For me, anyway, time seems more precious every year, even more than a decade after my illness.

    I don’t like to waste time on doing stuff I don’t enjoy or with people who sap the energy out of me. I want to maximize my time with the people I love. I’m more inclined to try to take advantage of peak experiences--pushing to go on that family vacation, even when my husband and daughters are less than enthusiastic, or actually making the call to get those tickets to a concert or show I want to see.
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    That said, there is one resolution I make every year that somehow I never get around to: losing the weight that I have been carrying around ever since I started taking tamoxifen and my metabolism slowed to a crawl. Even with my strict exercise regime and watching what I eat—but not carefully enough—the pounds keep piling on. I am determined to do better in 2007.

    As for time and cancer, a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and reported in numerous new outlets today tries to quantify the costs of lost time in fighting cancer. The study says there’s a $2.3 billion price to be paid in the first year after diagnosis for lost time from a variety of causes—waiting to see doctors, waiting for diagnostic tests, getting chemotherapy, and seeking other treatments.

    And that’s for patients 65 and older, not the younger patients who may seek out even more time-consuming, aggressive treatments. Not even counted in the study are the hours spent recovering from surgery and chemotherapy. The study also did not calculate how much time is lost by family members and friends, who are likely driving the cancer patients to all the medical appointments and sitting there with them.

    There’s something almost surreal to me about this study: the idea of trying to total up the hours of lost time spent fighting cancer when most people with cancer are all too aware of the even larger question of how many hours, days, months and years the cancer will rob them of, if the treatments fail to cure the cancer.

    The real message here is decidedly more upbeat and goes back to my initial thought: Enjoy each and every day of the New Year, and try to fit as much joy and happiness as you can into every day.
Published On: January 03, 2007