The nesting instinct of cancer


Last month in the New York Times,  Dana Jennings, who has been writing a regular column about his experience of dealing with prostate cancer, wrote about his desire to “nest” following treatment:

“More than ever these days, I want to shrink the world to the couple of rooms in my house where I’m most comfortable. I’ve been declining requests for my time, and the social whirl is less compelling than it ever was…this was something I needed to do. It was part of the healing process, of coming to grips with my new vulnerability.”

This nesting instinct is something which will be familiar to many of us both during treatment and in the immediate aftermath. I certainly found it to be an introspective time and I still find myself from time to time, slipping back into that impulse to take time out from the hustle and bustle of life and just “be” quietly with myself and my thoughts.  However, Jennings also sees something inherently “dangerous” in this impulse, as he struggles with that other familiar fellow feeling of post-treatment depression. ” It is a thin line between the womb of healing and cutting yourself off from the world.” he cautions.

Even so, that nesting impulse remains strong in us.  Jennings has a beautiful phrase for the reason why this is so, because it is not just our bodies that are healing, but our spirits too are “convalescing”. “I’m still reinterpreting myself in the face of cancer, and that takes time and quiet. It can’t be rushed, and I can’t do it successfully if I’m caught up in our huckster culture’s unrelenting ruckus”, he writes.

So today, I am wondering how many of you share that desire to nest following cancer treatment? Or did you feel a desire to get out there and reclaim your life again, throw yourself back into the fray?   Did cancer or another illness change how you want to spend your time?