01/31/2014 09:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Meditate or Medicate?


"The blues are because you're getting fat, and maybe it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?" -- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's

I try to take life one day at a time, but sometimes the days gang up on me.

Living with cancer means learning to live with the idea of cancer; knowing that it is hibernating in my body and could come raging out at any time. I need to compartmentalize it, in fact even forget about it, so that I can find joy in the time that I have.

When I catch myself losing perspective and heading toward the mean reds, I'll try any trick to pull myself back to brighter hues, to find a path to peace.

I have friends who swear by meditation, but when I try it I can't get past the first step. Clear my mind? I'm unable to clear my desk, and that only has about six months' worth of clutter, not the decades of detritus floating around in my head. I close my eyes, take a breath, and immediately start fretting about whether or not we have enough milk for the weekend, and what I should have said to that mean boy in eighth grade.

I haven't had much better luck with hypnosis. In my mind I go to a happy place, a playground, but then I can't get off the mood swings. I let the hypnotist's calming voice guide me to a pristine beach, where I feel sand in my mouth and little bugs crawling on me and the sun burning carcinomas into my face. Next time I'll specify that I want my spiritual journey to include indoor locations only.

Ok, I'll try positive thinking... I'm positive I still have cancer. Next.

Most mornings I swim or do yoga. Exercise helps, and a good massage afterward soothes body and soul. But daytime is not usually the problem. As the day gets tired and cedes to darkness, often so do I.

I understand the theory about treating the "whole patient" but really I just want the part that hurts to stop hurting. Just as I crave my morning caffeine jolt, sometimes I require a fast-acting form of tranquility. Deep breaths are fine, but a deep gulp of scotch can be better. And when the numb oblivion of sleep eludes me, nothing beats a good pharmaceutical with a red wine chaser. Doctor's orders? Probably not. Patient preference? Absolutely.

John Lennon sang, "Whatever gets you through the night, s'alright." Some days you just have to get through, not try to understand. Then, as Scarlett O'Hara famously declared, "Tomorrow is another day."

This column originally appeared on For more by Jennifer Glass, click here. "Like" Jennifer's Facebook page here. See her Fear.Less. video here.