I went to visit an old school friend this afternoon at his studio, which was great; I forgot how much we had in common and I've always admired his knowledge of proper clothing construction. He is the professional I wish I was. So we were catching up, and of course it was requisite that I talk about my cancers. I explained the neck surgery, the chronic pain, my medication regimen, how I really want to find a job that offers health insurance. The documentary, and how I hope it will somehow help others. All with a casual insouciance that no doubt disturbs people who don't know me well. I may as well have been talking about a paper-cut.
But under all of those flat recitations there was a tightening of my chest, my eyes started to water, I felt a pain bubbling up within myself that was definitely NOT the Thai curry I was eating. Here's the comment that did it, and if you are a cancer survivor you've heard it countless times: "Wow, you're so strong! You're such a badass! Most people can't even handle normal life stress, let alone cancer". I know, I know. Believe me, I didn't choose to be a badass, it just happened.
I always think to myself, "If you had cancer you'd have done the exact same thing", but I never say it because people unanimously reject that statement. "Oh no, I don't know what I'd do!" Let me tell you: you'd do what you need to survive, you'd bear your pain and try your best, no matter how ugly and messy it gets. Everyone has to do it at some point. Cest la vie, and shit.
I'm not a badass, I've just had some bad luck. And this is why I'm feeling down today.
I don't want any more back luck for awhile. A central struggle for me since moving here has been the fear of cancer returning, just as I've made the life-changing decision to continue on with my career aspirations. I have hip pain, I fear an Ewing's recurrence. I have ongoing digestion troubles, I fear colon cancer. After you have two primary cancers, nothing is improbable. The rain-cloud looms incessantly overhead. Sometimes it chokes me.
I am afraid only because I am happy, because I have something to lose now, and to be cancer-free seems too good to be true. My instinct is to refrain from savoring the freedom and happiness I feel due to a sinking feeling, deep inside, that I must prepare myself for the next big storm. It's a struggle to get past this.
I will close with this, from fellow cancer blogger Cara/growthandtransition, whom I've been following lately and admire greatly for her openness:
"This tiny bird reminds me, still, that Courage has a face - it doesn’t come in feats of strength, but in fear and longing, in pain... I’ve come to the conclusion that we need not differentiate circumstance, only response. One person’s measly splinter may be another’s downfall. Regardless of experience or level of pain, everyone must make a choice to live fully or surrender."