When I first started writing this thing I didn’t tell a soul. These days, most everyone who knows me knows about it. A weeks ago I even busted my stepmom with the site up on her iPad. I said, “Oh, that has bad words in it.” and she said “That’s okay.” but I was kind of embarrassed. It was easy to write honestly when I didn’t think anyone close to me would see what I had written. Lately though, I find myself second-guessing the topics of my posts—mostly worrying that what I have to say might be depressing or worrying to others. After all, these are the days of the self-aggrandizing social feeds: Look how much fun I’m having! Look where I am! I do it too, lord knows I’m not Instagramming my chemo treatments, although actually, now that I think about it maybe that could be kind of funny. Like if I got super made-up and threw on the Loubous and made duck faces next to my barf bucket and hastagged everything #sorryimnotsorry and #yolo and stuff. Anyway, I know I’m not the only one who’s life looks more like the brown noodle mess in the cardboard wrapper than the delicious entree depicted on the box cover.
Today I was texting with someone who works in the cancer biz. We were talking about my writing and she said exactly what I needed to hear:
“I have interacted with many cancer patients at various stages of their disease and often it seems they have to put on this ‘fighting the good fight’ air for the people around them.”
That’s it. That’s the sticky trap within all this cancer stuff—the BRAVE WARRIOR trap. I bristle when I hear that a person is “fighting” cancer. I can’t fight the crazy division of cells inside my body any more than someone could fight off arthritis, or MS or any other disease. If you tell me that I am “fighting” cancer, then by the same token you are telling me that all the people we have loved that have been lost to this horrible disease are gone because they didn’t try hard enough. That’s wrong.
I can’t write about good stuff all the time. I’m not going to be the plucky, determined cancer battler feel-good hit of the year. I can’t. I’m sorry. I’m straight up terrified. I don’t want to die, I’m not brave and I’m no warrior. I’m not fighting cancer, I’m fighting to find meaning and purpose in this life. That’s all. The only way I know how to do that is by telling myself these stories, by breaking my experience into small pieces and taking a closer look. I see things don’t look like I expected them to; my world no longer resembles the photo on the box, dammit. I look again though, and I see all the ingredients are still there. Maybe I can still find a way to enjoy this Chili Spaghetti.*
*Seriously? Chili spaghetti? Is that actually a delicacy in Cincinnati? I would never, ever eat such a thing. I was speaking metaphorically. I just wanted you to know that.