Uncertainty Is Hope

This isn’t the first time uncertainty has colored my days. Three decades ago, I learned that I had metastatic cancer and that nothing could be taken for granted.

By Steven Petrow

I wake up every day now with uncertainty, wondering what new and frightening updates there will be about the coronavirus pandemic, the protests, the climate and the economy. I read headlines about the pain and uncertainty of soaring jobless rates, the uncertain promise of a Covid-19 vaccine and the uncertainties surrounding the presidential election. Even my daily meditation app buzzes: “Lead with kindness and understanding through the uncertainty.”

“Everything is questionable,” a friend told me not long ago. “Where you go, who you talk to, what you touch. It’s quite stressful, at least for me.” And me, as well.

This isn’t the first time uncertainty has colored my days — and nights. Three decades ago, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, and I learned nothing could be taken for granted — not my health, not my body, not even my life.

My diagnosis took me from normal to crisis mode in about 48 hours — the time from when the oncologist pointed to a CT scan and told me, “You have cancer here, here and here” to when I found myself being wheeled into surgery.

Amid all of the unknowns of those first few months after learning I had cancer, I was grateful that my oncologist spoke to me in absolutes: “Do this, not that,” he directed time and again. One surgery. Then a second, followed by chemotherapy. The binary nature of his orders — the certainty of it all — made life simpler, if not exactly easier. That first phase of my cancer care, which required quarterly scans and blood work, lasted two years.

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