Understandably, I have not been myself lately.
Sometimes I am ok. I am able to focus and work and dream and laugh as if the world is mine and I have a limitless future. Just as a young 26 year old woman should feel. Most of my life is ahead of me and I have many things to do and see, and time enough to accomplish it all. As if nothing can hold me back.
Other times, the thought of cancer growing in my body washes over me, the same way that a wave of nausea rolls through you. I am thrown back into a narrow focus, an obsession with the immediacy of the disease and the treatment. I feel enormous fear - to the point of panic even. I feel my own mortality.
I feel mortality all around me, in others; I see through different eyes. I know it is extremely unlikely this will actually kill me if treated properly, but it has the power to do so. It is an uncomfotable closeness to death. In reality, we are all as close at every minute to death - as close as we are to life.
Luckily, I have already had life experiences that led me to question "why me?" Why me, Lord? I have been angry at God and questioned Him. If there is a benevolent God, why does he allow people to suffer? What have I done to deserve suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?
I have come through that darkness to realize that suffering is what makes us human, and makes the human experience worthwhile. Suffering has an ironic power to bring out our strengths and our better selves. It is the contrast that allows us to feel the sweetness of "not suffering". I do not have to fight that spiritual internal battle again. I have already forgiven God.
But I have not yet forgiven cancer. My anger is directed toward my cancer. I really like my life and cancer is going to change it. At least temporarily, and intermittently for the rest of my life, cancer is going to take away from me the things that I love. It is going to make me weak and unable to exercise, to run, to lift weights. It is going to make me tired and unable to work. The radiation may make me ill, and it will make me unable to taste food for weeks. Being severly hypothyroid might make me gain weight, lose my hair, change my appearance - I might be puffy with flaky, yellow skin - thyroid eye disease, lifelong calcium deficiency, unable to speak... There is a host of other possible complications that may or may not happen to me. I just have to wait to find out. The anger and fear are paralyzing, but the worst part is not knowing what the challenges of this disease will be for me.
Somewhere in my mind is the knowledge that no matter what, I will go on and live a full and happy life - things will be better in the future than they are now. But I can't deal or integrate my new challenges until I begin the journey of becoming cancer free. I can only wonder - what does this mean? What will it be like? Will it happen to me and how will I live my life if it does? How will I function, how will I go on? Will I be able to do all the things I want to do in the future?
The idea of a temporary inability to live how I want to each day while I recover makes me sad and angry. The idea of all the possible inabilities or losses in the future is paralyzing. It is too overwhelming, too much. I try to keep reminding myself it may not even come to pass.
Yesterday I read a book by M. Sara Rosenthal- The Thyroid Cancer Book . She talks about "the passion of cancer" and how feeling our mortality is the most powerful way to feel our lives. The one thing none of us have enough of is time. If we were immortal, life would be meaningless. Feeling our mortality and feeling our lives are two sides of the same coin. It is more than just living well or living content... it is living with passion, with urgency, with the fullness and wonder of grasping at what is barely ours to know.
Meantime I am trying to retain a sense of normalcy while I can. I pray for peace in my spirit and heart, and for acceptance. And when I am not paralyzed by fear - when I am running, for example, and I am centered in my body which works miraculously to propel me over the trails by breath and blood and skin and bone - I am thankful.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday,this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)