Monday, January 9, 2012

It's Not Always About Me

Have you had the experience where someone you know or care about is going through a crisis of some sort and it reminds you of a similar crisis of your own? It brings up past hurts and challenges. And you don't want to put your situation on the other person, but you need to deal with all the crap that is coming up your drainpipe.
That is why I am so glad I have a blog today. I have crap galore coming out of my drainpipe.

A friend is battling cancer. My immediate reaction is to give advice and to help with their process of getting through this horror. Mostly the way no one did for me. But I am realizing that much like being pregnant and having had the baby - no one can tell you what the other side of the bath of fire will be like. You have to walk the path yourself to get to the other side. I know this and I am doing my best to keep my freakin' mouth shut. It's hard. So much stuff has come up in me regarding my own battle with cancer. So much I never talked about. So much I ignored because I needed to get on with life. And so much I felt was old hat now that it has been almost four years since the surgery.

But I don't feel whole yet. I have daily, constant reminders of all that cancer took from me. And, don't get me wrong I am glad it didn't kill me (most days) but when I remember who I was before cancer there are some things I liked about myself that I will never have again and with which I am having a hard time being okay.

1. The first are my scars. I wore them as battle scars for years, to show what I had been through and how I had triumphed over that evil tumor that no chemotherapy could abate. I had looked death in the eye and it blinked first. But now I look at my scars as a story that I have to explain over and over again should I ever wear anything that isn't a turtleneck.

2. My voice. Someone said to me the other day - "Wow, Keisha you always have a cold." Well, no I don't always have a cold. My voice cannot get above a whisper by the end of the day. When on the playground I cannot call my children because they can't hear me. And G-d forbid they were in any danger, I would have to grab the nearest adult to yell at them and get them out of the way. My voice gives out from time to time. And I think about getting back in front of a class and teaching again and I am overcome with tears. My voice was one of the best things about me. Gone.

3. My epiglottis, I still have to take my time drinking or eating lest any of it end up in my lungs - which is really freaking painful!

4. The missing lung is doing its own thing and as I exercise more, she is getting stronger and stronger. And for this I am completely grateful.

5. Anemia. A new edition to the list of side effects. I am cold all the time no matter what I am wearing. All I want to do all day is sleep because I am so exhausted even after a good night's - or at least long night's sleep. And there is not much they can do about it because the medicines cause more trouble than they are worth.

Now that I have enumerated all the things that I hate about being post-cancer. I don't know how to be a good friend to someone going through it in real time. I can say things are going to get better. But they might not. Fight the good fight, when they are exhausted and just want all of this to be over. It will get better, but what if it doesnt? And do I really believe that? Sometimes just being alive after enduring cancer is not enough. Okay, greedy me, but it's not enough. And walking around saying I am just glad to be alive is a bunch of Pollyanna bullshit. I want my life back. I want my family together. I don't want to be getting a divorce (but I don't want to stay together either). I want my house back with the energy to finally fix it up. I want my kids to still be able to walk down the street to school and for my Zachary to have spent another year at Playhouse. I want, I want, I want. But I don't get to have. And I have to accept that. Accept the life that I have right now in this moment. When I don't really want to. I am sick of all that cancer took from me. And not grateful for anything she left behind. But sometimes its not always about me.