The Abyss

There is a scene in the movie Wall Street where Hal Holbrook gives advice to Charlie Sheen right before he is arrested for insider trading – his life was changing forever and difficult times were ahead. Here was the advice:

Man looks into the abyss,

Sees nothing staring back at him.

At that moment man finds his true character And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.

Every cancer patient “looks into the abyss” at some point in their cancer journey. Sometimes it’s right at the time they get diagnosed, sometimes it is deep into treatment, sometimes it’s when they face a setback. The timing of this type of challenge is different for every cancer patient but the feelings are always very similar – hopelessness, exhaustion, fear, desperation.

It’s a point where you have to make a choice – it’s the point where you are looking into the abyss. The choice is binary, either you step up into the challenge or you don’t. I strongly believe that every cancer patient has the strength to step up during difficult times but don’t always know how. Here are a few ideas:

  1. I always say it but if things feel like they are overwhelming and THINK you may need some help sorting things mentally, raise your hand, right now. I say “think” because by the time you “know” you need help you have probably suffered more than necessary.
  2. Reset – everything. Take account of where you are now in your cancer journey and reset your personal plan to address challenges. Make changes where needed – more sleep, less work, eating better, asking care providers for more help – whatever you think you need to do to get reset for the challenge that pushed you towards the abyss.
  3.  Get away – physically or mentally. Seeing the abyss means you need a mental break. Do what you can to get away physically (walk in the woods) or mentally (watch your favorite feel-good movie) from the moment. Even a mental break for an hour is a huge help.
  4. Move – however you can. Every cancer patient will have different abilities in this manner. My “move” ranged from laps around the outside of my house to laps around my treatment floor (IV in tow) to a few steps around my hospital room right before my blood transfusion.

If you haven’t seen the abyss yet, get ready and know how you will respond. If you never see the abyss, count your blessings and just keep moving forward.

Whatever the case, know that there are people all over the world with their hands on your back. 




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