This blog could be a flop because I am poetic and not everyone has the patience for that sort of language. However, if you are like me and you have been diagnosed with cancer and you have children, I think you will find value here.
We are an interesting subset of the cancer population. We suddenly feel like we have no time left and yet end up spending countless moments, hours, days, wasting time searching google for how long we might statistically stay alive. In that way, I’m sure we are the same as our fellow patients.
But as parents, we will spend an equal if not larger amount of time searching the internet to find out how our disease and death could impact our children’s lives. I’m not sure how other parents reacted but I turned to my old friend astrology. I immediately discovered that I had an aspect in my chart that pointed to breast cancer. I scoured my three year old’s chart for signs that his mom would die when he was young. I devoured blogs of survivor moms.
A few other times in my life when really shockingly bad things happened to me, I would think “this is my way out of this mediocre boring life.” There is a certain freedom down in rock bottom world. But right now I feel like I’m actually more like underground, in the dirt just below the surface. There’s a heaviness and an urgency that definitely reminds me of cinematic portrayals of getting buried alive. I feel the opposite of free.
I remember the day after I found out, I took my son Monty to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’m not sure why. Our membership had run out and I remember thinking, “Should I really renew this? I’ll probably be dead before I can use it again. Oh well, I can’t say that to this counter girl so … (then out loud) Sure!” I can still sense the flame of my previous self inside, the person who wanted a lot out of life. Cancer has introduced me to a whole person who was hiding inside of me: a patient who just wants to be here. I feel my two selves battling each other daily.
The flicker of my old self gets angry that I can’t pick Monty up and carry him to the car and head out on an adventure today, just the two of us. At the same time, I’m simply grateful to be with him and I don’t care that we aren’t going to do anything special or fun beyond being together. I want to conserve and save my energy for the first time in my life.
My old self gets frustrated that there are weeks when I can barely move. Even though my oncologist initially told me that chemo nowadays is way more manageable than chemo used to be, I don’t think they had accounted for it being layered on top of three years of pre-cancer sleep deprivation. At the same time, my new self is amazed that I am able to do so much when I’m not knocked out. A lot more than I would be able to if I were dead. A lot more than a lot of other people.
My old self wonders if my life will ever be as glamorous as I once dreamed it would become with time and work. My new self is looking at garbage cans and thinking, “I can’t believe you are going to outlive me!” My diagnosis isn’t particularly bleak by any stretch but cancer is so unpredictable. Life is unpredictable. Cancer reminds me every day that we are guests in this world and we have all come here with limited time.
Despite everything I’ve told you so far about my morbid imagination and how I’ve been thinking dark thoughts since getting diagnosed, I honestly have faith that I am going to survive and live for a long time. My old self is hoping that my life after chemo is over will be as awesome as I want it to be. My new self is happy to be here, thanks for having me.