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Boredom of Cancer

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

A young man with cancer recently told me that he felt bored. That’s not something I often hear from people who are dealing with cancer, but I know what he meant.

Cancer treatment isn’t a smooth and level process. There are times that you want to bury your head under your pillow because you feel truly awful. And there are times that anxiety causes your head to spin and stomach to knot.

But there are also days in which you feel reasonably ok. Not great, mind you, but ok.  You’re comfortable sitting on the couch, but not much else. You get bored.  You want to take your dog out for a long walk but you just don’t have the energy.  You can’t return to work or other sustained activity because you’ll have more treatments that will make you feel worse.

I remember periods of boredom during my own chemotherapy. There were days in which I alternated between napping and watching tv. It was somewhat soothing at first, but it became boring once I adapted to a cancer diagnosis and the rhythms of treatment.  I suspect that being bored is a good sign. If you’re really sick, you aren’t bored.

Further, of all the problems associated with cancer, boredom is probably the least worrisome. No one is going to say, “You just got diagnosed with cancer? You poor dear. Prepare yourself for the boredom.”

But sometimes what we don’t expect is what peeves us the most.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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