‘Cancer forced my inner circle to prematurely grapple with fear’



From The Boston Globe:

Treatment had been a darkly magical experience, marked not just with appointments and scans and hospitalizations, but also with love that boiled over, drowning out the pain and unease. In its place, the eerie quiet of my remission haunted me.

Humans are notoriously bad at predicting emotional reactions to events, good or bad, and indeed, I suddenly found myself living a forecasting error of sorts — how I imagined remission would feel seemed to starkly contrast with my lived experience. My work suddenly felt meaningless, and yet I didn’t know who I was without it. I no longer identified with my friends’ professional ambitions. They didn’t identify with my dark sentimentality. There was an urgency with which I told them I loved them. They responded in turn, and yet looked at me with unease, unsure how to handle the emotional gravity of it all.

Then there was the prescriptive question of how to spend my time. I vacillated between anxiety and disillusionment: Why push my dissertation forward, I wondered, if I might not live to go on the job market? Focus on your relationships, I told myself, the rest is ephemeral anyway. I repeated that mantra until a pang of anxiety set in: Maybe I will manage to outrun my cancer after all, only to be left without a fulfilling career. I’d binge on work until the guilt of neglecting my friends and family resurfaced. And so on and so forth.

“Things don’t happen for a reason: My life in remission”, Sarah Catherine Cotterill, The Boston Globe