Balancing Priorities

Living with lung cancer makes a few things easier -- for instance, you have a permanent excuse for just about anything, and there are scheduling issues you simply cannot adjust so, no discussion necessary -- but for the most part, it creates a plethora of new issues that need to be juggled about.

Shifting priorities

And the longer one lives with lung cancer, including the daily, weekly, or monthly treatments and those stretches in between, the more juggling must be done. Everything may shift around at virtually any point in a cancer patient's life. We must be ready to address even slight illnesses that may be precursors to bigger problems; with lung cancer, even a little cough may signal severe problems are lurking, and there is no point in needless risk. And addressing these issues, minor as they might seem, become massive priorities quite quickly.

Which means that everything else shifts.

Our lives are like ladders

If our lives are like ladders that we are constantly climbing up to the next level, then our priorities are like the rungs that we climb. We have to get from one to the next, and shifting those rungs in order to get where we are going in the safest fashion possible is essential. Of course, once safety is taken care of, then it becomes about a smooth climb, and shifting those rungs again comes into play.

We endure enough difficulty during the course of treatment, not to mention the recovery time after, and smoothing out the climb is something that we not only deserve but may even require. Quality of life is important to preserve and enhancing it by assessing priorities is a good place to begin.

Keeping track of everything

A simple skill I perfected while learning how to deal with chemobrain was making a streamlined list of what I needed to accomplish on a given day. My calendar is always littered with notes for the coming months, including hard dates like scans and doctor visits, and birthdays I should remember. I lay out ahead of time anything on my child's schedule for school or social activities that I need to be involved with. But each day I scour the calendar for clues about what I need to prepare for and then drill down to my priority list.

As much as I hate to admit it, finances always run up to the top. I am one of those people who cannot be at ease unless I know that I have some breathing room. For me, reducing stress is essential for a good quality of life, and I already have a full load of that from the cancer diagnosis. But prioritizing how my expenses are paid helps me to reduce that. Once I have figured that out for my day (and hopefully longer), I move on to what I need to do in order to maximize my health at the moment (and hopefully longer).

Then I get to the good stuff: the plans, the family fun, the joy. I want these things to be at the top of my priority list, and in truth they are. Actually, I am preserving them as priorities by establishing their foundations first and building upward, just like the rungs of my sometimes shaky ladder. The hard part sometimes is that those issues of body and money tend to move things around more often than I'd like. But if I don't remain flexible, it becomes harder to ensure that the good stuff happens.

Adjusting to life's curveballs

There will always be a few times when these rungs shift in different directions. I may tailor a new regimen around an upcoming event in which I need to participate. I may not be able to work during a period that I otherwise expected I would, or I may have to make arrangements for extenuating circumstances. These are a constant part of life as tumors shrink or grow, fatigue abates or sets in, as side-effects take their toll over time.

But being flexible, and hopefully as nimble as possible, can help to catch those passing balls and keep them in play. Especially the ones that really matter deep inside. The good stuff. Because sometimes carefully setting aside the "higher" priorities is the best and only way to achieve the "greater" priorities.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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