Winter is fast approaching in Aesop’s fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. The ant is diligently preparing for a brutal season as the grasshopper whiles away his time making music and dancing without a care in the world. When the freeze comes the ant surely will have no worries. His stockpile will carry him through the season. The grasshopper, meanwhile, will be pained by hunger and filled with regret that he had not prepared himself for harsh times.
I am the ant and winter is always on my mind. The sun can shine, the heat rise. It matters not that the leaves are full and green. In my head, the freeze is always around the corner and I must prepare for what may come. I never stop thinking about winter.
A year and a half after a softball sized tumor was removed from my left hip I received a phone call alerting me to its recurrence. It was evening. The sun had almost set. When I answered the phone the only light near me was the faint halo of dusk coming from my bedroom window. The news stunned me. The only words I could muster, well that’s unfortunate.
Until that moment it hadn’t really occurred to me that this tumor would ever come back. I had been told I would be able to get on with life after that surgery. It would be just like before. Perhaps it was ignorance speaking or mere hope, but it was wrong. Once you’re diagnosed with a desmoid tumor it’s never going to be like it was before.
Even before oral chemo killed the tumor that recurred I was thinking about next time. Winter is always on my mind. I’ve been blindsided before. Like the grasshopper, I’ve been filled with regret for not considering what may come.
My latest MRI did show some increased cell activity in my large tumor and, while the tumor has not yet grown larger, I’m mentally preparing for recurrence. I am the ant and winter is always on my mind. Winter will not come for me every year, but I no longer have the luxury of not preparing for its return.
A treatment plan is already in place with my new oncologist, should the next MRI show tumor growth. I’ve found an endocrinologist familiar with this particular oral chemo who will monitor my thyroid hormone dose closely and hopefully prevent the crippling hormonal crashes and spikes I endured when treatment ended last year. We’re financially prepared for the astronomical expense of those little red pills.
I can plan my homeschool year ahead, at least give myself an outline of what I want to accomplish, so the few good hours I will have a day can be spent teaching instead of planning. I can write a few blog posts and stick them in the queue for days when chemo robs my brain of the right words. I can stock the pantry and the freezer so meals are readily available when energy is not.
Being the ant is the right thing to do. Being the ant is smart. We should all have a plan for what may come. You have to be prepared as possible for any event that may call for you to batten down the hatches and hibernate for a season.
But what about that grasshopper and his music and dancing? Shouldn’t frivolity and joy be just as important as the backbreaking work when preparing for hard times? I always knew being the ant was smart, but I never understood that being the grasshopper was imperative until I got sick.
Since I got my latest MRI results I’ve let my head get hijacked by thoughts of preparation and the possibility of a harsh winter. Every now and again I have to remind myself to take a breath. What may come may not even come and even if it does, I can’t let my good days be consumed by thoughts of it. That is, often times, easier said than done, but that’s all the more reason to remind myself to practice.
Winter may be coming. Who knows? That’s the perplexing frustration of the desmoid tumor, but I’m as prepared as any good ant could be. Sometimes I get lost in the role of ant, feeling as though that job is more important. The laughter is important, too. The laughter, the music, the dancing. They cannot be forgotten.
I am the ant and winter is always on my mind. Being the ant is the right thing to do. Being the ant is smart. The season may be brutal. But I have to be the grasshopper too. I can’t forget to be the grasshopper. The music and the dancing are important just the same. As the moral goes, there is nothing that hurts more than being pained with hunger and filled with regret because you didn’t prepare for what may come.