Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rearranging one's activities following a diagnosis of cancer

Recently, I read some notes that I had made when taking a transition assistance course for senior officers prior to retiring from the Navy. In those notes, I found a list of my hobbies: travel, an active lifestyle that included exercising several times per week and frequent walks with my wife, learning about and enjoying good food and wine, and reading.
This autumn, cancer has disrupted all four. My damaged vertebra, caused by my cancer leaching calcium from my spine, no longer permits travel or an active lifestyle. I have gone from comfortably walking ten miles to feeling tired after walking a half-mile. (At times, my oncologist (pro-walking) and my neurosurgeon (anti-walking to avoid damaging my spinal cord) have debated whether I should walk a half-mile.) I'm currently taking eleven different medications, each with its own schedule. Three are for chemotherapy; eight are for coping with side effects that the chemotherapy causes. Even reading is often difficult because the drugs have shortened my attention span, altered my moods, and, along with my injured spine, generally made sitting comfortably for an extended period time impossible.
Now that my cancer is approaching remission, some of my interest in food (but not in drink, interestingly) has returned. I continue to find dining in restaurants less attractive, perhaps because it tends to be less physically comfortable than eating at home. I still do not feel like traveling or leading the active a lifestyle that I led a year ago. I am reading more, though in much shorter sessions than prior to having cancer.
These four sets of activities were important factors in my wife deciding to live in Honolulu and to opt for a condominium in the heart of Honolulu. We had planned to travel less, taking a major trip biennially instead of annually. However, we had also intended occasional visits to the other Hawaiian islands, something that presently exceeds my physical abilities. In time, I hope that I shall at least have the strength and physical capacity to travel the relatively short distances to the other islands. Honolulu's climate is conducive to an active lifestyle. Similarly, I hope that when I have completed chemotherapy, dining in restaurants, savoring different cuisines, and exploring different drinks relaxing and pleasurable.
We chose our condominium because of its proximity to the airport; the building has amenities suitable for an active lifestyle (pool, tennis courts, etc.); lastly, the building is located within two blocks of a major beach park and a block from two major shopping areas, hundreds of restaurants, and otherwise supports a pedestrian lifestyle. Now I wonder whether a condominium in a less congested, less developed area of Oahu that offered a less pedestrian friendly lifestyle and fewer amenities might have been the better choice.
However, humans do well to make decisions based upon the best available information, recognizing that circumstances may change and that no amount of research will ever lead to making perfect decisions. Living in this condo does provide an incentive for doing everything I can to regain as much health as possible. I also know that is likely that I will predecease my wife and that we live in a location and with the possibility of enjoying the lifestyle that she prefers.

I also wonder how many of my hobbies I will be able to enjoy in the future and to what degree I will be able to pursue those hobbies. My cancer has been a catalyst for reexamining what I want to achieve in the remainder of my life: how I can best use and enjoy those years. My next Ethical Musings post explore those topics.

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