Friday, January 12, 2018

From Cancer to c-a-n-c-e-r, but back, again?

Beauty or the Beast?


A short, simple word at first glance.

It’s a mere word representing my astrological sign. It’s the astrological sign that gives me carte blanche to be somewhat (or 'morewhat') of a moody bitch. The moody bitch routine in my case, and in most cases I believe, was my best attempt to cover up my bleeding heart. To many, it’s common knowledge that we Cancers have a big heart.  Yes, we are over the top hopeless romantics with bulging hearts disguised in people that have no problem one day looking you in the eye after knowing you for twenty years and saying "For that, you are dead to me" and never look back. For yes, we have big hearts, but in order for us to access and display true compassion and empathy, there is normally a cost to everyone involved before we will publicly do something nice(and pathetic) like jump out of a cake or something sweet (and lame) like offering a toast and making a speech about a deserving person.

Cancers I know never want people to catch us being nice. We would rather cover the hearts on our sleeve with five layers of clothing, and we would typically prefer to be thought of as a complete jerk in front of a group, an asshole even in order to avoid people knowing that we feel constantly. Incessantly, we feel, I tell you.

I have dealt with the complications of this type of Cancer my whole life. It’s been a thorn in my side for 52 years and made my life more difficult than it had to be. But, I understand, that every bump in the road, every time you are told no, every little nuance in life is just a challenge, an opportunity to learn how to outmaneuver what’s in front of you, coexist with it or take a wide right around it.

I mastered control over my lifelong Cancer, my astrological sign, some years ago. Today, if you haven’t known me 20 or 30 years there’s a good chance you know little about my thought processes and how I am continually interrupting them, rerouting them and reminding myself that my brain works for me not the other way around. So, for many, many years I battled this astrological cancer I called it, and I felt damn good about learning my way around it.

And then one day in the early summer of 2016, I was told I had the kind of cancer that would surreptitiously divide the cells in my body into mutations that would divide even faster into more mutations and that its solitary goal was to divide fast enough that it would essentially eat me alive and kill me, thereby killing itself in the process. How fucked up is that?

Now, take a look at the image above again.

Do you think it’s beautiful? My answer to the question is, “Hell, No.” These pretty colors and spiraling lights you see are merely trying to disguise a cunning, ruthless, relentless little creature on a suicide mission that would force it to kill me in order for it to complete its own selfish mission. 

The image above, that in a bitchy way resembles beauty, is cancer. It's not even a fancy cancer or a rare or unique cancer. If you were to simply type C-A-N-C-E-R into Google images,

(or just click here) it’s the first thing to display.

Cancer is a cataclysm of diseases mostly dissimilar from one another, but capable of killing nearly every male on my father's side of the family before they reached their 55th birthday. Except for my brother, that is, but he is a statistical anomaly for a whole host of reasons, all odder than the next, and my smart commentary on that subject is best kept to myself.

Cancer is cunning and smart. It plays to win and it always looks after its kind with fierce loyalty and determination to survive as it mimics, hides, teases and multiplies. Cancer doesn't tire or care if you do. It's intelligent and ruthless and filled with the ability to make us marvel at it as it simultaneously forces us to nurture a relationship with it as it consumes us, literally. Cancer is a lot of things but none of them are beautiful.

Oddly enough my years-long dance with my astrological Cancer left me with the skills I needed to cope with my cancer diagnosis, my symptoms and my side effects from chemotherapy in a manner that I feel allowed me to cling on publicly (to most) of my dignity. You see, yesterday I received my last chemotherapy treatment from a regiment that lasted nearly five months, and the majority of people were unaware that I had even had the first one let alone the last treatment.

I do not suppose that it should have been important to me during these months to not involve many people in the process, but it gave me great peace. It gave me peace because most of the time I did not feel 10 percent as well as I would present myself to feel to others. I was secretly and constantly panicked in the presence of others. Locked into a fear that someone would want to talk about it and I would break down and be revealed as a fraud. I didn’t want people to know that by the time I hit three steps outside my door that getting back inside my house was the foremost thing on my mind the entire time I was not there. At home, I could feel how I felt, both physically and emotionally, without anyone knowing and without pretending that I wasn’t. In short, my life was hell, but it was a story of hell no one, in my mind, really needed to know about until now. I suppose now that chemo is one could argue that no one still needs to know, but when I started writing this I could immediately feel there was going to be a great value in it for me. The act of writing it down, giving it away, sending it out into the universe is going to get it out of my head.

Chemo afforded me a number of firsts in my life. In fact, at my local Target store alone was the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and maybe sixth time in my life that my body simply relieved itself in my pants as I desperately tried to get to the men’s room in time. Then there was the time the same thing happened to me while driving and waiting for a traffic signal to change. I now keep backup clothes packed for whenever I leave the house.

There was the time on stage calling numbers at Bingo4Charity at Punky’s Bar and Grill that more than one patron walked outside of the restaurant to call the manager and say, “Do you see what is happening to his leg? Do you see his leg?” Turns out my leg had swollen up horrendously right before their eyes, and I was unaware of it until I stood up to try to walk. That was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and I ended up spending the night at the ER that evening. Immediately, thereafter I changed my weekly chemotherapy appointments to the day after Bingo instead of the day before.

The chemotherapy has taken my sense of smell away and thus affected the taste of everything. Many things I used to love, I now can’t eat. Things I used to despise, I now crave. Red sauce, one of my favorites, I can no longer eat. No matter where or what kind I try, each time somehow it tastes spoiled to me now. Reddi-Whip, that previously disgusting can of chemicals and sugar that is supposed to take the place of whipped cream, is now heaven sent to me. I walk around the house doing chores holding a can and repeatedly shooting shots of it down my throat. I, literally, cannot keep enough of it at the house. There’s many, many more but I think you probably get the idea by now so I can spare you all the details.

Clearly, cancer fucking sucks, but to me, it would have sucked so much more if I would have involved everyone I know in it. For me, at least, someone sitting with me, holding my hand or giving me a pep talk like I was back in Little League afraid of the baseball, would have made it much worse. For the few that I had to involve and that helped me in situations when it became necessary, I both thank you and apologize to you.

Next week, I am having surgery for what they tell me is the final leg of the marathon I am about to complete to beat this thing. The doctors are confident that in a month I will be back to myself and awarded my cancer-free certificate, and I am serene and calm as I count down the days until it happens.

Yet, there is a nagging question in my head that is getting stronger instead of subsiding. And, that is, if they come to me in six months or a year or in five years or ten and yank that certificate away from me, would I do this all again?

I certainly and absolutely have no death wish, but I do not think I will be able to come up with the answer until, and, if or when, I am asked.

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