Cancer Can’t Become the Norm
I can’t write another open letter to Cancer. At this point it’s like trying to engage with Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. It’s a fucking mystery. I have to write something, because I know my feelings are sitting in my stomach in a tight little ball of fury and fear. I feel helpless. I said it. Helpless.
One of my close friends has just finished her third surgery to remove wedges of her lungs so the cancer doesn’t spread further. Yes, I said wedges. Yes, I know the visual you have just created in your mind and I agree… using wedges along with a major organ and the word “removed” is just wrong. Wedges should only be used in relation to pie. And underwear. Not your fucking lung. She’s tired, she’s in pain, and she just found out her chemo and radiation is planned for 6 months of treatment. There are no words for how much I wish she could be living her life fully again.
Last week, my other friend went to the doctor to receive the results of her biopsy for a lump on her thyroid. During the biopsy she was told it wasn’t cancer, that it would be very rare if it was. Highly unlikely, said the Doctor. I don’t think irony truly covers what happens next.
Sometimes, whether we like it or not, we know what we’re supposed to do and where we’re supposed to be. I’m learning to listen to my heart a lot more lately, and that morning I paid attention. She walked into the waiting room to get her biopsy results, looked over and saw me sitting in a chair. We both looked afraid, and I knew whether she needed me or not, I was there. Because that’s what I would have wanted… because she would have been in the same damn chair for me. Yes, we’re those kind of friends.
It’s devastating to realize that right there, in that moment, will be a memory you will never forget. A moment in time, where your heart catches with your breath and nothing is ever the same. Why are the heart breaking moments so easily accessed in our memory files while some of the most beautiful, free moments of our lives get lost in the archives of our minds?
No matter who, or where, or when… cancer is never, ever fair or right or ok. I know for every person in your life, you’ve thought, why them? Why now? They don’t deserve it. I know I’m not special in my anger, fear, and sadness. It still feels like too much. Tonight, I realized, cancer has become the norm. My two best friends have this disease and are both young, fit, and strong. It still isn’t fair.
They will get through this, they will get it out of their bodies and be healthy again. Right now, none of that matters because of their pain. The weight of the unknown, the never ending days and hours and minutes waiting for the next doctor, the next test, and the next surgery date. The ragged feeling in their bodies when they tell another friend or family member, testing out the reality for themselves as they say the word cancer out loud. They will be ok, but at this moment, in their very separate ways with their different experiences… they are not ok. And I can’t fix it.
A friend asked me the other day how I was doing and I replied honestly, “Sometimes a situation is so bad, worse than you thought possible, that you end up being calm. Because it’s the only response you have left. It’s what is needed.” In my heart I know they will heal. So I hold onto that vision. I plant my feet in the fucking ground, grab their hands, look up at the sky with cinematic defiance and wait for the storm to pass.
Addendum: Cancer, you’re not what is normal. You’re not what we will talk about everyday. You’re not them. We’re a bunch of incredibly smart, stubborn, beautiful women and I will hold you down while they pummel you. It is going to be so embarrassing when we kick your ass. Which we will keep doing. Some days it will be with tears, other days with anger or exhaustion… but there will always be one constant. Perseverance, motherfucker.