When you have cancer, you may experience the Rip Van Winkle Effect.

You won’t find this syndrome in any oncology textbook.  I just made it up. But I only made up its name. The Rip Van Winkle Effect is very real.

Rip Van Winkle, you may recall, is a story by Washington Irving. It was published in 1819, but takes place much earlier. It’s about a guy living in colonial America who’s out in the woods one day squirrel hunting and meets some mysterious men wearing outdated clothing and bowling in the woods. Although this might have made him suspicious, he accepts their friendly offer and drinks deeply from their jug of liquor. He immediately falls into a deep sleep.

When he awakens 20 years later his beard is long and gray, his musket is rusted, and his faithful dog is nowhere to be seen. When he gets back to his village, everything seems different. Initially, he recognizes no one and no one recognizes him. He’s missed the American Revolution, his wife has been dead for years, and his children are grown. He meets two people who share his name. They’re his son and grandson.

When you have cancer, you may at times feel like Rip Van Winkle. You’ll spend most of your time sleeping, wishing you were sleeping, and going to doctor appointments. Meanwhile, life goes on around you. It may seem like everyone else is going places and doing things while you are… not. It may seem that time is strangely different for you. It is.

Although I’m no astrophysicist, I’m pretty sure all this is explained by the space-time continuum being distorted slightly as an observer passes too near the black hole of cancer—which of course has a rather strong gravitational pull. Or, maybe it’s simply explained by the general theory of cancer relativity. You’re traveling rapidly on a different journey than everyone around you.

Or maybe it’s just the Rip Van Winkle Effect. Fortunately, it’s only temporary.

Below: A YouTube clip that’s totally irrelevant. Except for the beards.

Author: alcambronne

Retired photographer, author, and cancer survivor living in northwest Wisconsin.