For the past few days, I’ve barely been able to control my panic. Something happened the other day in the bathroom. I was passing by the mirror, and I saw my chest. I’ve seen my chest in the mirror a hundred times since my surgery, but something about it really upset me this time. Instead of facing it, I swallowed the panic.
The panic keeps trying to surface. It has something to say, but apparently I have no interest in listening to it. This morning I touched my head and more hair fell out. Panic. Swallow.
We got a very new and peaceful aquarium. Yesterday I was sitting on my hygge couch, staring into the aquarium at the crabs and fish, and all of a sudden I thought, “am I going to die? Will I sit here as I die and watch this peaceful scene and die quietly?” Is that how my story ends? You can say no, but you don’t actually know.
My daily life consists of making it through. Some people work through chemo, and I can’t imagine having to do that, because making it through is all I can do. Taking walks, trying to drink water despite my mouth feeling like it’s coated in something slimy…these things are all I can do. And it is hard to imagine coming out the other side of this and not just “making it through” every day. I am so completely overwhelmed by CANCER that I can’t handle even the most simple of tasks.
I am in pain from the chemo and my email is overflowing. I am supposed to answer these emails from kind people. I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it because of the panic. I feel like I might start screaming. I am screaming on the inside even when I am not screaming on the outside. Screaming on the outside feels like it would take too much work, which is maybe the only reason I don’t do it.
How do I get to the point where life goes on? Part of me wonders if I might die because I can’t imagine what it will be like to live on the other side of this. When I thought about my future, I didn’t envision myself as an 80 year-old with breast implants sitting in a rocker. Attempting to reconcile this future I didn’t imagine for myself is part of what makes life so totally confounding right now. How is it even possible that I will go through the rest of my life with these scars across my “breasts”? How can I possibly reach 80 when, at 34, I had cancer?
Cancer cut my life in half. Before cancer, I cared about work. I cared very deeply about meeting my goals and worked really hard to meet them. Now my goals feel stupid. Who the hell cares how many clicks we get, how much money we make? On Facebook I see e-books for people looking to get quick results from advertising, or guidelines about when to post inspirational quotes to get in front of more people. Who cares about bento boxes for kids’ lunches or holiday cookies? Who cares if anyone clicks on any of this shit?
I don’t have cancer now. We cut it out, didn’t we? But it could come back. Even if I don’t have any breast tissue left, it could come back somewhere else. We don’t know that it won’t. How do I go forward with my life knowing that I can’t trust my own body? Is the pain in my lower back because I’ve been sitting wrong? Or is it cancer in my bones? How do I go forward knowing that my friend thought she needed to see a chiropractor and get a stand-up desk, when in reality this horrible illness had returned, and that was it: Stage IV? Now she’s gone.
You know the joke, “why did the chicken cross the road?” No one thinks this joke is funny, because it seems too obvious. But last year my friend Michelle blew my mind when she pointed out that the answer is actually really deep: “To get to the other side.” If the chicken successfully crosses the road, he’s on the other side of the road. But if he gets hit by a car, he’s on the Other Side.
I was walking my whole life on one side of the road. Doing my thing, living my life. And then cancer came, and it made me cross the road, and I’m praying I get to the other side instead of the Other Side. I can’t stay where I was, thanks to cancer. But I’m confused. Because everything here looks the same, but everything is different.
My child is in the variety show at school and there are things to be done. I have to pay my rent and I have to pay the electricity bill. I have to pack school lunches and I have to figure out how to do it all without screaming.
None of these things matter. How do I go back to a life where I’m finding things to write about that will get “clicks”? As a fellow marketing friend of mine said, Amazon grows and grows and grows, but why? What is the point of any of this? More than a half million people work for Amazon, day after day, toward the common goal of growing. All their meetings, their phone calls, their emails, their daily stress . . . it all centers around growing the company, but WHY?! To what end?
There’s so much noise, so much superfluous shit and so little of it is important. On this side of the road, I’m looking at all these things I used to look at every day – the bills, the variety shows, the work goals, the office gossip – and I’m seeing it differently. I’m swallowing my screaming. Because even though I know these things are stupid, I know that no matter which side of the road I’m on, they’re still there. And they will be until I’m on the Other Side.
And I don’t want to go there.