One of the first things to go after my cancer diagnosis was my sense of power over my own body, my sense of agency, my ability to chose what happens at what time on what date. Oncology asked of me only if I wanted to live or if I wanted to die, which isn’t an actual choice but okay.
Once I answered I wanted to live or at least give it shot, all of these things started happening, in very rapid succession. I was being instructed to undress and put on this robe open to the front and sit on this exam table or lay on this bench or pee in this cup or roll up this sleeve.
It was seventeen doctor’s appointments in the five weeks between my initial screening and my first chemotherapy treatment. I saw a GP, a breast surgeon, a cardiologist, an oncologist and a new therapist. I had two mammograms, an ultrasound, full body CAT and PET, EKG, brain CAT, spinal MRI and breast MRI. There was a pap smear, biopsies of breast, lymph nodes and spine, and a port placement.
There was nothing to do but go to the places the people in the white coats told me to go and do the things the people in the white coats told me to do. The chance to decide between lemonade or cherry flavored contrast fluid for my scans felt like a very big deal.
I surrendered to it. I didn’t resist. It seemed like the most sensible course. It’s all going to happen. I can either get okay with it or I can be a miserable fuck about it all and make everyone else around me miserable in the process. I decided to not be a miserable fuck.
At the time, it did not seem like a consequential choice. Looking back, it seems like maybe it might have been the thing that saved me. Maybe in the literal sense but I don’t know. Definitely in the psychological and existential sense.
During chemotherapy, the next thing was the next treatment. My chemotherapy was in two phases, with a cocktail of drugs often referred to as AC&T. AC was first and every two weeks. T came after and was every week. During the AC phase, I didn’t think about the T part. And when two weeks between treatments was too long of a focus point, I latched on to other things like my next bowl movement or the next therapy appointment.
And during chemo, I didn’t think about surgery. During surgery, I didn’t think about radiation. And so on and so on and so on. One thing at a time, the thing right in front of me and no other thing. And try not to be a miserable fuck. That’s how I got my power back. I didn’t know that is what I was doing but it was.
This phase of my life, this final phase, I know what my job is. My job is to focus on the thing ahead and try to not be a miserable fuck.