Fast. Faster. Gone in a moment. Sometimes before we realize how much faster cancer cells move than our bodies can fend off. We look in the mirror and watch our faces change. We feel our skin and it feels as though it’s not our own. Our breasts change in size, shape, and functional capabilities. Instead of life giving joyous appendages they’ve become hired guns out to kill the very support system for which they once worked. Some of us never had the joy of motherhood bestowed upon us by nature’s design. And that’s okay because we still, as women, must become the bringers of life to those we love. Our purposes shift but not without our reason d’etres in tow.
Eventually we all know our consciousness ends and the world we lived in becomes one in which our deaths are survived by those who once cohabitated and collaborated in it beside us. I refer to all of those who share in our experience either in person or now, those who live virtually close to us and some of whom equal in importance for our lives to ease down slowly when the dying of the body disallows physical contact for varying degrees of importance in reason. We show love and support regardless of the miles of distance between our physical selves. How fortunate to be alive in the networked age of innocence? Insouciance isn’t an option here because in matters of life and death the difference is so great that indifference would become a criminal act against humanity. And I’m not being tongue in cheek. It’s truly that important to the isolated percentage of us with cancers that have gone rogue in our bodies. The 30% of the 40% who have had cancer in the past. Then those like me who “present” right at the stage of the spread from an originating tumor. It’s not our fault. It’s not karmic retribution. It’s 90% environmental and 10% genetic and we never saw the bus coming before it hit us.
We share our inner most selves here. The kind of personal stories once so tightly held to the vest we wouldn’t share them with our best friends sometimes. And yet here we splay ourselves out with words rather than looks or hugs or facial expressions of joy or pain. Yet we have the protection of how much we allow out into the privately public eye, and feel more secure as people become friends who we absolutely love and appreciate as we would a friend who lives within driving distance. Given this caveat: ours is a false senses of security since that security really is just a matter of how much or how little we are willing to share of our own story. Albeit our stories are without the input of those of whom we may speak, of those who saved us, made us happy, and love us. In addition we may choose to relate our devastation over those who hurt us, make us feel shitty, or something as bad as making us so upset we would rather lose consciousness than get metaphorically beaten down towards the bottom of of some common unknown. In the instant we publish ourselves in a blog post we open ourselves up to scrutiny fearlessly hoping for understanding and love in response to our cries and laughter to our humorous rants.
In our most intimate and interesting posts we open up like bodies under the sharp knives of a small town morgue’s medical examiner. We let the light shine right near our dearest most personal stories under the eyes of people who need to know we are out here for reasons of solidarity around the topics of cancer, dying, and death. That last post on my blog may be by the very person who I talk about who could not handle watching my life slip away and who treated me like shit because out of love they couldn’t find a way home again from the hospital to be by our sides through the most difficult things we’ve ever been through.
The death of me isn’t the true death of my story anymore left to those who outlived me to tell anymore. Better yet, even after I’ve lost physical consciousness my stories can help those who get even better medicines than were available to me to learn what it meant to have metastatic cancer prior to the breakthrough that saved them but missed me and others like me by a few years, months or worse, days. Here’s what it used to look like to walk in these shoes when our diagnosis of stage IV is a death sentence. A perpetual march to the surge of tests and chemicals until no more can extend our life anymore and we must enter the limbo state if not knowing quite how long our bodies can contain the faster growing cancer cells.
The living go on as we go to sleep and one day our consciousness doesn’t return from rest. It’s in the spaces between existing and not existing where we live all the time. It never leaves – “it” meaning the knowing our mortality before we reach the finish line. Every day actions and activities once just ordinary become extraordinary. Our bodies are not ourselves but become the very enemies we dread in a dark alley alone at night facing down an armed assassin. Though it’s certainly been a frightening place to live for so long now, I’ll take it over not seeing another black calla lily or great redwood tree. I’d take that alley fight over never feeling a real hug again or the warmth of a body – friend or lover – as you sit comfortably next to one another critiquing a film’s bad editing or gasping at the sounds of a commonly loved piece of music.
I cannot believe all of us are here now – reading each other and loving each other and opening and closing like the rains hands in the ee cumming’s poem. No one not even the rain has such small hands. No wonder it resonates with so many people in love. There’s a universally understood unknown that makes no sense yet makes all the sense in the world.
And by god I know if you’re reading this you know exactly what I mean.
All my love,