Monday, August 2, 2010

A Moment of Truth

My back hurts. My stomach hurts. My head hurts. I'm nauseous. I'm tired, and I don't want to feel this way anymore. But the thing about it that makes it all feel even worse is that I'm used to it. I can't remember the last day or time I felt anywhere close to what I would call normal. Sure, I feel more like myself now than I have at any point in the past year. My hair is back, sideburns and eyebrows included. I've shed the weight I put on in the places I didn't want it over those eight plus months of inactivity, and I'm slowly beginning to recognize the old form I so dearly valued in my shallow, unrelenting vanity.

I'm tired of people asking me "how I feel today," or if "today is a good day," though I know most of them ask because they care. I'm even more tired of telling them I'm "pretty good" or that I'm "alright" when the truth is that I feel awful, but I'd rather put on a happy face and tell them everything's okay. I hide my feelings from my family and from my friends, but mostly I just want to hide my pain. I really don't want anyone to try and share it with me. I have enough of it; I don't need to impart it on the people I care about, and that care about me, the way I probably am right now.

For so long, I eagerly awaited my chance to resume normal life; to loosen the reins that had become so suffocating. I ignored the impending responsibility and demands that accompany "real life," and all of a sudden I'm more afraid of going out and living than I am of the persistent uncertainty that I'll be around to do it.

I'm the first to acknowledge the constant uncertainty in our lives. Things are always changing, and I don't know how anyone can promise anything to anyone else when they can't guarantee tomorrow for themselves.

I hit ruts and rough patches; I think everyone does. I think maybe mine last longer than those of others because of cancer. A few months ago, I didn't think it was possible for me to be happy. A lot of the time, I'm not sure it is possible for me to be happy with the way things are right now. It's hard for me to accept that it's okay to feel that way.

People like to say that good things happen when you least expect them. Maybe they just like to maintain hope that something good might happen at any moment. I say it's a cliche. Then I realize that cliches are cliches because they hold true enough of the time for enough people to believe them in order to become cliches.

I will not believe that things happen for a reason. I will not budge on that point. But I will bend on the idea that good things happen when you least expect them. Maybe, for instance, on the last night of the last round of high dose chemo, when, on any normal occasion, I would not remember. And maybe by "good" I really mean "great," or "amazing." Maybe it's hard to let myself believe something like that could really be as great as it is, because this time it could actually be real. This time, it's not some impossible dream that I'll never touch. Now I dream while I'm awake.

I guess it's still hard for me to believe that someone could make me happy when I didn't think it was possible to be happy. I didn't know someone could know what I'm going through, see the question marks, and still want to love me. And though she can't heal my pain, or keep my stomach from gurgling like a water cooler, or keep me from falling into the occasional funk, she can remind me that everything will be alright just by existing in my life. I guess that's what people mean when they talk about the "healing power of love." That's if you believe cliches, of course.

When I hurt, she makes me hurt less. When I laugh, she makes me laugh harder. When I sleep, she helps me sleep better. When I can't get out of bed, she doesn't either. And by "can't" I really mean "don't want to," but I still mean she doesn't, either.

Before I got sick, I believed in the value of the journey as well as the destination. Since I was diagnosed, I've wished countless times that I could fall asleep and wake up when it's all over. I didn't care how I got there, I just wanted to be better. And, to a large extent, I still feel that way. But at least now I feel like part of the journey is worth being awake for.

I still have a long way to go. I have another round of low dose chemo before my next scan, and I'm not under the delusion that this will be the end. I don't like to get my hopes up. I know I'll reach the end of treatment, and I know that each passing day brings me closer to it. But I no longer feel like I'm in such a rush, and I once again feel like I can have everything there is to have in this life. I thought I had lost that. I've been reminded. I don't know what to call it... peace of mind, I guess.