Control, or Lack Thereof

Everybody who knows me would describe me as a tightly wound anxious control freak. I used to wear this as a badge of honor, citing it as the example why most of our social endeavours end up working out so well. Somebody has to take charge sometimes to plan and organize things or else events will just devolve into people randomly walking into each other and losing their ability to speak English.

I’ve never been a “go with the flow” type. I don’t believe in the phrase. When water initially flows down a piece of land,  physics and gravity guide it into a channel. It isn’t just a random karmic movement of flowing molecules… they are governed by real laws of science until they find the best possible channel down which to flow. I am a type of person that goes out and looks for that channel, and if it doesn’t exist… I dig it. It’s proactive pragmatic situation control… it works wonders in many disciplines of the world.

It doesn’t translate too well to being a cancer patient, though. I learned that from minute one of being in the hospital. I don’t often enter situations that are way over my head without at least doing SOME research, but I was told to “drop what you are doing and go to the ER” so I had no time to prepare. As I sat in triage, I had a moment where I pulled out my phone and started to type in WebMD…because knowledge is power, right? NOT THIS TIME. I put the phone away and sat patiently on the bed and waiting for the doctors to tell me what I needed to know.

This attitude continued on for the rest of the day, with me only asking a few important questions about certain realities and practicalities. “How long do I have to live here? My bones have WHAT in them? Am I ….am I…….die?”

Other than that I have been making a very conscious effort to stay out of the way as much as I can in this whole process. I don’t know anything about chemo, oncology, injectional drugs..but the people I’m surrounded by are EXPERTS. Why bother getting in their way? I just listen to the directions they give me and I perform the tasks that will make their jobs easier for them. I want nothing more than to be a model patient here and I won’t do that by getting in anybody’s way or exerting any sort of dominance or by dropping any knowledge. I trust these people endlessly, I have to. They are the best at what they do and I will do everything they tell me to do. If I were a dog I would be on my back with my tail wagging between my legs.

This relinquishment of control has been nothing but liberating. Before I became sick my life was spiraling down into the depth of anxiety and stress. Things were getting dark and unruly in my psyche and something had to give. Ever since my new normal began and I’ve only had one single thing to worry about – not dying from cancer – my life has improved. Seriously. I have simplified my entire life down into just one all important goal and it has totally removed all of the stresses and anxieties that I thought mattered. This is perhaps the most important self improvement lesson that I will learn from this experience. It’s another one of those instances where I’m almost glad this happened to me… my perspective was in dire need of a change and this threw my ass right into the fire.

Letting go of control means letting go of so much stress, anxiety and worry. It just doesn’t exist when you are able to fully trust others. It certainly helps when those others are experts at the top of their field, but the lesson can be applied elsewhere, too. Not worrying about how things are going to get done without my help and input has allowed me to shine in my role as a patient, and it has given me a ton of free time and energy to goof around…WHICH IS IMPORTANT.

We keep this shit ILL in the CBCI block
We keep this shit ILL in the CBCI block

In short, trying to exert control over something that you don’t actually control causes stress, anxiety and self burden. Allowing yourself to accept the fact that you can’t do shit most of the time and to trust those who can is a very personally liberating feeling that will help all people and societies achieve their goals.

Namaste and shit.



13 thoughts on “Control, or Lack Thereof

  1. Michelle Haggas January 26, 2015 / 2:48 pm

    Hey Jason it’s Mrs Haggas from OHS!! Thinking of you and wishing you well- btw your blog was very funny! I see you really haven’t changed, you are as funny as ever. Your semen sample story was very funny! Good Health humor- lol!!! I remember the two Kevin’s and Mike C and Mike Kent …and Adrienne Fallon feels like I had you guys yesterday and truly you guys were my favorite bunch to go through OHS!!! The students here have changed and not in a good way! Well anyway I am thinking of you and will keep you in my prayers…


    • jasonthornyak January 26, 2015 / 3:54 pm

      Hey Mrs. Haggas! Thanks for the kind words. I give you full permission to use my blog in class as learning material. You aren’t allowed to censor any of it though, these kids need to learn how to properly swear! 🙂


      • Michelle Haggas January 26, 2015 / 6:54 pm

        The new semester begins on Friday I may use the blog for educational purposes only and no censorship will be used! Damn right these friggin kids need to know how to properly swear -wtf! 🙂


  2. Jean Martin January 26, 2015 / 7:26 pm

    Jason, I was so sorry to hear that you are sick, but I must say your positive attitude is amazing!! I am glad you have faith in your doctors and in their plan for treatment. I, too, am a bit of a control freak (Dan may have referred to that once or twice), but there are times when you just need to trust others. I can tell from your writing that you have been able to do that. Your girlfriend sounds like a sweetheart – and the best part of your life right now. That’s wonderful. Know that there’s a whole community back here in little old Oneida that’s pulling for you and sending all kinds of positive thoughts your way!! Jean Martin


    • jasonthornyak January 26, 2015 / 7:34 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. Keep pulling for me from the north side! 🙂


  3. Sarah (Sally) McDade January 27, 2015 / 5:20 am

    I love your control comments Jason! Truly liberating. Share them with DCH 🙂 Not having expectations is also liberating.
    Sound heavy? As you know, it’s not, just the opposite – very simple. Thinking of you.


  4. Brad Milison January 27, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    Hi Jason,
    I went to school with Kathryn and discovered your blog through her FB posts.

    First, I’m sure you have to already know this, but you are a phenomenal writer. Your voice is so strong that I feel like I already know you. Second, this blog is a lot of things: fascinating, scary, funny. I neglected a bunch of tasks at work because I couldn’t stop reading it. Third, this specific blog entry really, really resonated with me. I could go on and on about me, but instead I’ll just say the picture you painted of an overanxious worrier hit close to home. I read this post and felt like it did help put things in perspective, and it impacted me pretty strongly. And now I’m worried that came off as, “your leukemia helps me put things in perspective,” when what I actually want to say is thank you for sharing this. I really applaud you for taking what you’re going through and producing this blog that’s overflowing with heart, humor, and humanity. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and sending good vibes your way! And of course I’ll remain an avid reader.

    Take care.


    • Jason the Cancer Troll January 27, 2015 / 9:56 pm

      Hey Brad,

      Well that may have been the nicest thing anybody has said to me so far about all of this… and you’re a stranger, so obviously you aren’t just kissing my ass 🙂
      Thanks man, I’m pleased that my experience and words were able to reach you. I’m glad that my ‘leukemia helped put things into perspective’ for you, and that’s not a weird thing at all to say because, fuck, I’ve been saying it 10 times a day. It makes me very happy to know that I’m able to help more than just myself with this blog, so thank you for sharing this with me. I really really appreciate it.

      Stay in touch!


  5. mattyg January 28, 2015 / 4:38 am

    JASON! I read this now after visiting you the day you posted this. You said it perfectly in this statement;

    “In short, trying to exert control over something that you don’t actually control causes stress, anxiety and self burden. Allowing yourself to accept the fact that you can’t do shit most of the time and to trust those who can is a very personally liberating feeling that will help all people and societies achieve their goals.”

    So true and if more people understood this and lived their life like this, i think people would be much happier in general!

    sweet Blaugh! 🙂


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