NPR logo Uncertainty Is No Replacement for Suspense

Uncertainty Is No Replacement for Suspense

I wrote a couple of days ago about how important I think it is to still have a little mystery in my life. Who doesn't like a little suspense? That's why we love horror movies. Will there be something awful behind the door that the stranded teenager is about to open in the abandoned cabin? Okay, bad example, because there's always something awful behind the door. You know what I mean. But suspense is different from uncertainty. I'm not such a big fan of that.

We all know the old cliche about death and taxes. When you think about it, there really isn't a lot that is certain in life. When it comes to cancer, I think we could all use a little more certainty. Maybe just once, or even twice, I'd like something about cancer to be black and white, yes or no. In the old Roman gladiator movies, the emperor either put his thumb up or down. He never sort of left it in the middle.

Will chemo work? Don't know. We do know that it will make you pretty sick. That is one bit of certainty that I'm sure we'd all give up. What about radiation? Not clear, it may work or it may not. Is the tumor dead? We'll have to wait and see over the next couple of months. Will it come back? That's the scary one. And we'll only know the answer to that if it does come back. Up to that point, all you can say is, "Not yet."

I've gotten over my initial shock of first realizing that what we do next, what course the treatment takes, is actually up to me. I always thought that the doctors knew exactly what to do. I guess I had been watching too much TV. Periodically, we all have to make decisions, sometimes life and death decisions. And we can never be certain of the outcome. Our bodies respond differently, our cancers respond differently, the averages may or may not apply. In the end, sometimes you just have to go with your gut. I don't second-guess my decisions. I don't think there's much point in that.

I realize this is a rant. There isn't going to be any more certainty or clarity. No one can tell me if I do A, then B will happen for sure. That's just the way this disease is, and the way life is, and we have to roll with it. I guess I just wish sometimes that the response wouldn't be, "Answer hazy, ask again later." I always hated getting that one.