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The Road Less Traveled

Robert Frost wrote in “The Road Not Taken “: “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Meso forced Lannie and I to take “the road less traveled”. It is not our choice. When we were catapulted into this foreign world of pain, fear and uncertainty, we were forced to explore an alternate route. Our normal route was cruelly blocked by the reality of a rare and aggressive cancer called Mesothelioma.

At some point, Lannie and I had to make this decision: Would we let Meso define us? Or would we define US, as we lived with Meso? There is a subtle difference between the two. If we let Meso define us, Meso is in control. When we define how we live with Meso, WE are in control.

We want to be in control.

In Robert Frost’s poem, he has a choice between two roads. Lannie and I had no choice but to travel this road. So this road brought us to places we would never have gone, if we had that choice. We didn’t. This road has been traveled by others. Others know our pain. Others know our fear. Others know our struggles. Knowing others have traveled this road brings some comfort. The question for me becomes: where is this road going to take us? That is the real dilemma. Before cancer, Lannie and I hoped, the “normal” road of our life would lead us to a long life, with death occurring at the end of the life cycle at a “ripe old age”. Of course, we all know that even on the “normal route”, life is not guaranteed. However, the uncertain road of cancer brings the reality of the fragility of life even closer. I am learning that the fear of traveling this uncertain road lets Meso define us if I am not careful. I do not want that.

Cancer warriors say, “Live in this moment. Enjoy this moment. Cherish what you have NOW.” They are right. If I can do this, I am in control of Meso’s effect on our lives. I don’t let it invade. The challenge for me is to stop asking the question, “Where is this road taking us?” When I think about that question, I’m not usually focusing on “the moment”. That question tends to sneak up on me. I am a planner. My Mother taught me to always think ahead. So, to navigate this road less traveled, as it meanders along its uncharted way, remains a tough personal challenge.

This less traveled road has definitely changed me, but it has not defined me. I am still Linda. Of all the lessons I have learned on this road less traveled, the most important ones are not about cancer, Meso, radiation or chemotherapy. The most important lessons I have learned are about virtues and values. I appreciate loyalty of friends who stop in “just to check” on Lannie. I appreciate the virtue of gentle honesty when Lannie’s doctors kindly, but gently, tell us of any new tumors making their unwelcome appearance on his latest CT scan. I appreciate dear friends who give me a hug when they sense I am down. I appreciate when someone says, “I prayed for you.”The kindness and caring toward us as we travel this road help us to define how we live with this cancer called Meso.

I’m not happy to be on this road. I’d rather be on the “other” road we had been following before cancer crashed our party of living a “normal” life. However, we are on this road and I want to make the best of it. I want to take in all the sights. I want to feel the joys of unexpected gifts along the way. I want to meet the warriors who have traveled this road longer than we have. I want to help others who are just beginning their journey. I want to give them hope and help them to see that they CAN navigate this road less traveled – because we did.

I stop once in a while (but not too often, because that takes me out of “enjoying the moment”) to reflect on where this road has taken us and the lessons we have learned.
The road less traveled …. Lannie and I are taking the road less traveled byand, yes, it does make the all the difference.

We ARE traveling. I am learning to appreciate the journey. I am ever learning.
I keep smiling – while I’m on this road – less traveled by.

Linda Chitwood

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