The dark and the light.
5 years. 5 years! This is an easy cancerversary for me in many ways, and this is a hard one. Easy, because I'm here without a cancer recurrence. This is even when they start to use words like "cured". Hard, because being 5 years out does not give me a sense of security. This post is going to be about both the dark side and the light. I want to go to the uncomfortable places that I went in my mind, even if I never said it. Then I'll bring up the mood a notch...
I have to confess, there were times in the course of treatment where I thought that I couldn't do it anymore and I was okay with dying. You get to a place where you think you feel the absolute shittiest you could ever feel in life, and you still get worse. You can't stop your body from revolting, and you can't stop your brain from profound overwhelm and fatigue. It is demoralizing, and to think about putting my loved ones through it for a year or through multiple rounds was unbearable.
Cancer involves cheerleading, and it's a necessary coping mechanism for a bad part of someone's life. I needed my boosts of cheer and got them--I needed help to convince myself I could make it through the treatment. But when all the noise died down and I was awake in the middle of the night because of pain or nausea or a hot flash or just thinking, I needed to go to the places without the positivity. I needed to confront what I was facing. And then I woke up the next day and kept going. (This is not fishing for recognition, though; there are people struggling in so many ways every day, and they keep going, too.)
Cheer-lead for those going through it, but do them a favor. Realize that every day of this they are facing a horrible path and yet keep moving ahead because they are making a hard, conscious choice to do it. Truly acknowledge that crazy humanity. Make your cheering be about the depth of their spirit in the face of it, not hollow platitudes.
My light side was that I did have people cheering for me like that.
I've said many times before that when people say their cancer is a "gift", I kinda want to punch them. But I think I've gotten past the language. It's not the cancer that's the gift. It's the love.
It's the love. It's the love that comes from a true place in others because they want to be good. It's the love that comes with no expectations attached, just the want of good for others. It's this loving tribe of people that I got to gather and that I still surround myself (and Olive) with. Near, far, in person, digital; this group of supremely human humans, this island of misfit toys that knows how to live by the golden rule.
I hope it doesn't take a cancer diagnosis to open people up to see and feel that kind of love. I don't think it would've for me--really, I could've done without, thanks. But it certainly magnified it and mobilized it in an amazing way. It is an endless source of perspective, even on the days when I swear at traffic and hate long lines. I am still overwhelmed by the beauty in that humanity, and my gratitude still only grows for you.