I don’t think about overcoming cancer. I can’t. Multiple Myeloma is undefeatable. Most days, one can hardly recognize that I fight past overwhelming fatigue and nausea. I do it because I have no choice. I am just an average Information Technology worker trying to make it until 65 when federal healthcare benefits become available. I could work from home, but I chose to push myself. The question therein is, “Why?”

I push my body to get up at an usually early hour, perform back exercises, shower, dress, and head to work. Despite the numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, I push myself through security, sit in the most tedious and obnoxious meetings, and head for lunch at the customary hour of 11:00 AM. I push past daily bouts of fatigue (usually from 1:30 to 2:15 PM). 2:30, I push stiff and muscle-cramped legs and grab a Diet Pepsi. By 4:00, I push past security and exit, open my car door, and breathe a sigh of relief that neither my fatigue nor brain fog killed someone. Once home, I crash and rest throughout the evening. So, one asked, “Why not work from home? Why push?” My response: Doing all this shit feels normal.

However, I am aware of my new reality. Here’s what I wrote my former boss several days ago.

Dear B.

All kidding aside, I am exhausted. There’s a mental part to exhaustion, but I am referring to the physical. Getting up and going to work in the morning is getting more complex. I am tired of worthless business objectives that will go nowhere, managers who cannot be critical of their lack of performance, and constant management/leadership changes. Sure, in my five years here, I have been through (I think) about four restructurings and countless layoffs, but my body no longer gives a s***.

My current boss is devoted to the new management. Whatever the new executive leader states, my boss responds, “Oh my God. He just came up with the greatest solution ever.” You were always realistic. You often informed the team what management wanted and directed the team accordingly. However, you called out the oblivious: “ABC is B***s***,” or “Here’s why I don’t believe GHI will work.”

Medically, I am hanging in. As mentioned previously, my body is wearing down. My legs are not working as well anymore, and neuropathy is impacting my ability to function. The Multiple Myeloma is slow but progressive. The medication that used to work well is no longer 100% effective. Although I was supposed to die two years ago, I am unsure if retirement will be lengthy, should I make it that far. I have 14 months before Medicare coverage. Once that happens, I can step down. So, I recognize that I am nearing or moving toward a later stage.

I feel as though it’s a competition between work and health. It’s not an uncommon problem for those living with incurable diseases. Even though a few more coworkers know I am medically fighting, they remain unaware of the precise nature of the cancer I have. However, at least they know I have cancer.

I don’t want people to be afraid of cancer. Life isn’t any less beautiful if you have cancer. I still get the same joy from being in nature, walking, or enjoying a good steak. But being catapulted into a world of hospital visits, pseudo chemotherapy, numerous blood tests, scans, and medical appointments has challenges. I am no longer the last person to leave social gatherings, as my body is no longer mine. Each day, I like to achieve something for myself and the company. If I do something, it gives me a sense of normalcy.

Even though I long to sleep eternally, I choose not to sit around, do nothing, or obsess over dying. As long as the government remains open past November 17, I scheduled a flight to Tucson to visit my mother. (I have yet to inform her of my diagnosis and prognosis.) Strange, though, cancer oscillates. Some days, cancer pain dominates, while on others, cancer recedes into the background, and I nearly forget. On those recessive days, I almost feel “normal.”

In closing, everyone has to find their sense of normal. I work to find my routine. A lot of days, I have to push through. On other days, I find a life balance between cancer, pain, and living. Yeah, there’s work, stupid bosses, endless meetings, objectives, doctors’ offices, scans, blood tests, and drugs. Each of these is my new normal. It is a daily struggle, but I push through it. And it’s the ‘pushing’ that makes me feel normal.