Of all the people that could have survived a seemingly sure death sentence, I was the one that made it. I survived. I am not dead. And now I have all of these memories and these scars and this shit and my life is turned upside down and I donâ€™t know which way to turn.
I donâ€™t know what to do. I donâ€™t know what to do first. I donâ€™t know what I want. I want everything. And I want nothing. I want to run and do and be and see and feel and touch and I want to lay in my bed and never talk to anyone ever again and never have to do anything ever again and never have to be cut on or poked or bled or scanned or anything else that I donâ€™t want. Is that straight? Great. Glad you understand it because I donâ€™t.
Everything is changing and nothing is changing and I donâ€™t know where to go or who to turn to. Nothing is the same any more and all I want is for everything to be the same from day to day. I donâ€™t want anything to change. I donâ€™t want to have to adjust to anything. All should remain static. Except Iâ€™m restless and I want to change everything.
I want control. I donâ€™t want anything to happen to me that isnâ€™t a direct consequence of something Iâ€™ve chosen. If I want to see people, I want to see them. If I donâ€™t want to see them, I donâ€™t want to see them. I want new things but only on my terms. I donâ€™t want anything else forced on me. I want to be the agent of change for once. I want to be the master of my own universe. I want to say jump and the world says how high.
You would think all of this would be no big deal for me to write about. You would be wrong. As much therapy as I have done, as much talking and processing I have done, it is still difficult for me to think about all of that stuff, all of that shit, that I went through. Most of my therapy was concentrated on getting me through the moment, keeping me focussed and on task, not about really dealing with what was going on. If truth be told, I didnâ€™t think it was time well spent to process because who needs to process if you arenâ€™t going to be alive to do the processing, yes?
I have spent this month writing a book, attempting to write a book about my cancer. Every day I have thought this is the day I will break through and the words will flow like water and everything will be magnificent. And every day, I begin to write, to write about what happened. I go over notes I made. I review medical records. I’ll run across something, a note, a test result, some event that I had managed to suppress and, just like that, I am down the rabbit hole. I am laying in a hospital bed and I don’t know if I’ll ever leave it. The doctor is telling me, again, that I don’t have time for second opinions, they have to move fast, faster than the cancer.
A year ago, when it looked like maybe everything had worked and the cancer was on full retreat, I started to think about the consequences of living, the consequences of treatment, the damage that had been done to my body. I was concerned maybe I had pushed to far, done too much, burned the village down in order to save it. My emotions never entered into my consideration.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not questioning what I did to survive. I am not questioning the value of being alive. The question, the thing I ask myself every day, is now what? Now what? What comes next? How do I do this? Where? With what? Thus far, the only answer that has come is the most infuriatingly simple one. Today is what comes next. Today is all I have and all I know and all I can count on. I do today by breathing in and out, making breakfast, rubbing my dog’s pink tummy.
I don’t know if this is enough. I don’t know if I’m doing things right. I don’t know. I want to do the good thing. I want to fight the good fights. I want for my living to mean something, for all of that effort to go towards something worthy of all of the blood and tears and sweat that went into it. I want to earn my good fortune.
I don’t know why I lived and others don’t. The body is a strange, beautiful, deadly, glorious mystery. I am grateful for the chance to inhabit mine for a little while longer.
November 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm
This resonates deeply with me not as a cancer survivor but making the decision to live after a failed suicide attempt. Even now, a few years later, I’m constantly asking myself now what? I chose to live….now what do I do? While they aren’t the same issues…they are the same thoughts so thank you for writing this out. I always feel guilty when I try to express something similar.
November 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm
The guilt is a real thing. It is a real feeling. Prior to my diagnosis, I spent much of the year clinically depressed and was suicidal. I never regret choosing to live. I hope you don’t either and if you ever start to feel that way again, I hope you will tell someone. Thank you for reading my stuff. I am humbled and honored.
December 8, 2013 at 11:56 pm
“I want for my living to mean something, for all of that effort to go towards something worthy of all of the blood and tears and sweat that went into it. I want to earn my good fortune.”
If this blog and all the people you’ve reached and touched with it doesn’t count towards your good fortune, towards making your life mean something, then by all means build a blanket fort in your bedroom and never leave.
December 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm
I love blanket forts. I really do. I didn’t get to make them as a child. I should do something about that.