Archive for July, 2008

Life Going Up the Hill

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Another interesting occurrence in your mind when cancer strikes the home is the challenge to your mental state. A noted expert on brain function, Arlene Taylor calls this change “downshifting”.

To put it simply the brain has three basic levels, the lower, mid and upper. In the lower region the brain can only process in the present tense. Not much if any rational thinking goes on here. It’s fight or flight, knee jerk reactions that occur here. All the autonomic things like, heartbeat, digestion and things you don’t have to think about are generated here.

In the mid section of the brain is where you can begin to process the past in with the present. Some rational thinking begins to take place here as you relate past experiences with the present. Your mind can think, “Oh I’ve been in a similar situation before so I’ll do or feel what I did last time” with no regard for future outcome. Thinking about the future is impossible here.

The upper region of the brain is where full rational thought occurs. Planning for the future and considering the outcomes takes place here. This is where your creative thoughts are generated.

When you experience a threat to your life such as cancer, your brain immediately downshifts to the lower regions. Like a car that is cruising along on flat ground and comes upon a steep hill. In order to keep going you have to downshift. Everything slows down, and gets harder.

The truth is, when you face cancer in the family not only does your life exit the freeway but it begins a slow uphill climb where thoughts about the future are harder to consider. Without the ability to see the future one might feel like Job in his crisis when he said, “What is my end that I should prolong my life?” (Job 6:11)

Life Off the Freeway

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I’ve been thinking about how to describe what it’s like living with cancer in the family. After my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2006 it seemed like so many things changed. One of the things disrupted was our vision for our future. It’s like reading along in a book and halfway through picking up a different book and starting to read somewhere near the middle. You ask yourself, “Is this the book I’ve been reading?” “Is this the life I’ve been living?”

I compare our life before cancer to traveling down a freeway. As you chart your course you have certain waypoints you plan and hope to arrive at. Early in life you have stops you expect to make like, marriage, having children and seeing them graduate from college. We were focused on getting a home paid for and being prepared for retirement and enjoying the grandchildren that were coming along.

When cancer strikes its like all of a sudden you’ve gotten stuck in an exit-only lane and found yourself heading off in a direction you hadn’t planned, a direction that doesn’t seem to be taking you towards your goals and dreams. All of a sudden you don’t have a vision for your future. Where are my goals and dreams? They seem so far away in another time and place. Who am I?

One thing I am beginning to discover is this; how I would like the book of my life to read, or how I might want the itinerary of the journey to be laid out, I may not have it the way I want.

The truth is, life off the freeway may be the only trip you can take. “A man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)