The Heist


I know you’re not supposed to say things like this, (although every single cancer patient has probably thought it at one time or another), but cancer has taken over my life.

I know you’re not supposed to let that happen. I understand the benefits of a fighting spirit, of finding joy even through the (really) rough patches, of keeping your job so as to have a sense of normalcy (and health insurance).  I’m totally aware that cancer does not have to be 100% of your world; that it is possible to still laugh and love and work and travel and do things like go to the movies.

But there are times, I’m learning, when it just overtakes your life the way a tornado wrecks your community—it happens in the blink of an eye and everything that you’ve known is no longer there. For me it’s as if normalcy and joy were transported to somebody else’s neighborhood—they get more, you get less.

I’m being robbed.

You’re not supposed to say these things.

I shouldn’t put into words that there are some people who go through life charmed (I don’t mean no problems, I just mean relatively little trauma thus far).  Those of us who don’t go through life like that can’t help but to feel a twinge of pain, a fire squashed, a passion put aside, a difference between you and me.  In fact, the friends that I can often go the deepest with are those who have had serious trauma in their lives.  We’re linked in that cosmic, crappy way.

Cancer has taken over my life.

A heist.

For the past 4 months I have not felt well every day– at some point during the day–sometimes for longer periods and sometimes for shorter periods. Usually fatigue and stomach aches and nausea are at the top of the list, other times it’s itchy skin or restless legs.

It’s the cancer, it’s the side-effects, the symptoms, the whole host of issues that come along with trying to stay alive.  The immunotherapy, the surgeries, the medications.  I’ll take every single one of them to be able to live on this earth, despite how hard things may be.  (As long as I can talk authentically about the challenges of life right now).

This week I had to prep for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. I was surprised that I didn’t cry at any part of the prep—even though people have colonoscopies every single day and it’s really not that big of a deal, after what I’ve been through the last few months, I feel fragile.  The thought of prepping for more tests, the vitals and the blood sugar checks and the IV and the sedation and the recovery and the waiting… I so wanted to cry.  I thought that I would feel a lot better if I could just let it all out.  I felt like Cameron Diaz in the movie The Holiday where she hasn’t cried since she was 15 years old, and she walks around the green hills of England trying her best to just squeeze out one stinkin’ tear.  Nothing (until the end of the movie).  I’m a crier, but these days things seem to have gone numb.

After drinking almost an entire jug (4 liters) of the most disgusting liquid one could ever create, and not eating for almost 48 hours, I finally went in for both procedures.  They told me that most likely I would just sleep through both and not even remember it, but unfortunately I could feel the tube in my throat for the upper endoscopy and I could feel the colonoscopy, crying out in pain and discomfort.  They kept telling me that they were giving me more medicine but that is what I remember.  Too much.

Now we wait for the results of biopsies, just as we did a few weeks ago waiting for the biopsy of the growth near my eye (thank g-d not skin cancer). Two liver radiation surgeries, one kidney stone surgery,  1 cat scan, ultrasounds, plenty of medications/new prescriptions, 4 hospital stays, and so many doctors’ appointments that I just can’t keep count any more, and how could cancer not take over my life?

And so, not feeling well physically has now seeped into my emotional capability to handle the physical problems. Coming home from work at 12:30pm or 1pm and sleeping the rest of the day away makes me feel lazy and guilty for not exercising or doing more.  Not having the energy to even make it out for a local dinner often times makes me feel wimpy and boring.  Lying on the couch unable to clean the house, file my paperwork, call my friends, do much writing, and trying to live with what has become chronic GI issues makes me feel like my life is not my own.  It feels chaotic, lost, sad, and doesn’t represent my love of life or who I really feel I am (or used to be?) at my core.

You may say, “It’ll get better,” or “You still are that person that you were and that you want to be,” but if I don’t feel it, it doesn’t make much difference (as much as I love you seeing the good in me).

The fighting spirit that lives inside of me is still there, she’s just a little bit more quiet than usual, and I can’t blame her for that (as long as she promises to never permanently leave me).  But I miss her, and her silence makes me seem to question everything else.  I spend a lot of time with my inner ally on that beach where we seem to meet asking her questions and searching for answers.  I haven’t gotten many yet, except that she consistently and compassionately reminds me that I am more than this (even when that feels so far from the truth), and that the heist will come to an end and I will feel more like myself as the healing continues.  She doesn’t tell me how all of this will happen, but she tells me to keep waiting… And that the answers will come.