I recently joked with a friend, I am a vodka tonic and a little coke away from Whitney Houston. The amount of prescription and over the counter medications I take on a daily basis to manage pain, sleep, anxiety, and depression would put most people in a coma. Me, it buys me, at the best of times, one night of restful, uninterrupted sleep. The irony in much of this is that currently, my worst sleep issues are being caused by another prescription drug I am taking, Tamoxifen. It is a non-negotiable, keeping me alive pill that I must take for the next four and a half years. If I don’t take it, the cancer will return, sooner rather than later.
So, I take that one little white pill because I have made the decision I want to live. Because all decisions have consequences, what I now do is spend the rest of my time dealing the consequence of that one decision, the decision to live. But don’t misunderstand me, Tamoxifen is only the latest fork in the road. I’m sure there will be more such decisions to confront in my future.
When I made the decision to live, I accepted that living would not look like the living I had been doing all of my years prior to being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I didn’t know, couldn’t know, all of what that meant. But I knew I wanted to live and so I accepted what needed to be done in order to make that happen. And now my life is dealing with those things, making sense of the trade-offs, learning to do what I can with what I have, learning to embrace ambiguity, emptying myself of expectation.
From the outside, what it looks like I do is spend a lot of time at home, alone, in my pajamas, scribbling in notebooks, diddling on the internet, listening to music and eating lots of barbeque. And, I won’t lie, I do a lot of that. But while I’m doing that, I’m doing quite a bit of creative loafing. I let my mind wonder. I ask a lot of questions. I argue with myself. I consult Plato, Rousseau, the Book of Job and Tolstoy. I listen to the same piece of music over and over. I spend a lot of time watching sunlight change and move through the rooms of my home. I watch my dog sleep.
I do this and it is enough to remind me why making the decision to live is worth it, for now. My life is worth living. My utility, usefulness as a human being on this planet, has not been nullified because my body has turned against me, because I can no longer work, because I don’t make a paycheck. I am not done. I’ve not said all I want to say. I’ve not written, read, seen, drank, eaten or loved nearly as much as I would like and until I’ve done so, I intend to keep on doing whatever I have to do to continue living. It may not look like much to those who define a human’s worth by their paycheck, their assets or their abs of steel. But I never much liked those people to begin with.