“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
I’d like to try to address this statement, seeing as I’ve been hearing it often since my diagnosis. I appreciate the overwhelming support I’ve been receiving, I really do. I just don’t like this statement. Although sympathy and attention are both pleasant to receive, I feel like I might be getting too much.
Here’s why: I’m probably not going to die. I say probably because spontaneous human combustion, although not overwhelmingly so, is a possibility. Google spontaneous human combustion. Unlike spontaneous human combustion, the kind of cancer I have is treatable. I feel like there are a million other people on this earth who deserve the prayers and kind words rather than me simply because there are a million other people who have been diagnosed with worse.
I’ll try to keep the butthurt bellyaching to a minimum from this point forward.
I don’t really know what to write now. I’m sure everyone has questions, none of which are stupid or unanswerable, but I don’t really know what to say. So, I guess I’ll start with what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer as a 20 year old whose outlook on life was finally looking hopeful. Initially, my diagnosis was the source of a lot of negative energy. I didn’t feel like my life was over, but I felt this overwhelming anger that sent me into somewhat of an episode of depersonalization/derealization. There was a lot of denial and self-loathing in the first week, a lot of wishing, and a lot of pain. I think I went a week without laughing or enjoying anything. It was also a week before I could really appreciate the support and kindness that was being sent my way via social media and prayers. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do believe there’s some space magic afoot after I held hands and prayed with one of the hospital’s chaplains.
I want to be able to honestly say that I’m feeling great as of now. I want to say I’m feeling like a million bucks, but a more realistic appraisal would be somewhere in the range of $100,000-$250,000, depending on the day. I’ve accepted that the next few years of my life will be spent cautiously. I’ve accepted a lot of things. My sense of humor is gaining traction. I can get in and out of bed without assistance. I’m not constantly in pain. My only complaint is that my brain feels as if it is operating at less than half of what it’s capable of. It’s taken me more than a day to type this up, not just because I don’t know what to say, but because it takes an insane amount of effort to stay focused. What I’m experiencing is known as “post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment.” My fine motor skills I’ve developed have decayed quite a bit, resulting in a low typing speed, which is only made worse by the fact that I sometimes forget what I’m thinking as I’m typing. My vocabulary isn’t what it used to be. Multitasking is impossible. I do, however, have a good feeling about this. I don’t want to jump the gun and say I’m kicking ass and taking names here, but as of now, I feel like I’m back in control and getting through this is not a matter of, “if,” but, “when.”
Segueing has never been my forte, so I’m just going to jump into something else without reason. I was playing at my friend’s house one day when I first experienced what it was like to be convinced that I was going to die. I might have been in 1st or 2nd grade. I was over at Kevin Beese’s house playing on what could be the most magnificent buoy swing ever created. Now, I realize that the seeming immensity of this buoy swing was relative to my size at the time, and I might be disappointed if I were to revisit it, but I can see it in my mind’s eye with perfect clarity: a bright orange boat buoy suspended on a tree branch maybe fifty feet off the ground, then a thirty foot hill behind with tire steps to the top, and below all this was a large clearing with a little shrubbery and a blackberry bush in the middle. We would take turns jumping onto the buoy from near the top of the hill, swinging dangerously high back and forth from the hill to the clearing. One of us had a genius idea to not sit on the buoy as we swung, but to hold on for dear life while our feet dangled. We referred to this as “Supermanning,”I believe. Most of our Superman launches went without a hitch, until the one time I lost my grip above the clearing. I have no idea how far I fell, but I remember landing on my back on the edge of the blackberry bush. This knocked me unconscious for a few seconds, and when I came to, I couldn’t breathe. I had no control over my body, and as I impatiently waited for my lungs to begin functioning again, I was fairly certain that I would die right there in the blackberry bush. Of course, I didn’t, and as Kevin stood over me and asked if I was okay, I regained control and a burst of air shot into my lungs.
This, coincidentally, was what it was like to be told I have cancer. When I received my diagnosis, I went back to the blackberry bush, laying motionless with no feeling in my extremities, feeling as if a 500 pound weight was lying on my chest. I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime recently, I heard Kevin ask me if I was okay while a burst of air shot into my lungs.