Can you believe I started my blog three years today? As a writer, I decide which stories to highlight and how I’m going to tell them.These decisions are often completely arbitrary. Speaking of which, I ended Friday’s tale prematurely because I felt I’d dragged you down enough for one day. That and Joy doesn’t like it when Sadness steals the limelight.
Now that you’ve had the weekend to recover, I’ll finish what I started. After my chance encounter with Mr. Shuffle at the Cancer Centre, I headed back to the car. J. could tell immediately that my mood had shifted. I was glum and quiet, so she asked, “Whassup?”
I described my encounter, and how bad I felt for this man, who was unwell and appeared to be alone. (His family could have been waiting for him, for all I know; I just didn’t see anyone with him.) I’d made many potentially erroneous assumptions about his life. Then I added, “My cancer journey is so much easier than everyone else’s, I’m so lucky to have a good leukemia–a good leukemia? I said that?–and an easy chemo, blah blah blah.” You get the idea.
Enter the Validator, J.’s other superhero persona. (You’ve already been introduced to the Anti-Procrastinator, who completes tasks before anyone realizes they need to be done.) She said, and I paraphrase here, “Remember when you almost died? Remember when you were so weak that you couldn’t tie your shoes without tipping over? People stared at you because you looked so sick. Remember how many months it took for you to regain your strength and to complete a 5-star Sudoku again [excuse the humble brag]? You’re not working in the profession you love and you’re tired all the time and your cancer has been no piece of cake.”
You may recognize this old theme in my blog: the incessant need to convince myself that my cancer is lame, and that my suffering is small potatoes compared to everyone else’s. Heck, I’m 4-1/2 years in, and I’m not even dead yet. I’m a cancer failure.
All these things are true. I’m still alive, but cancer still courses through my veins. At one point, my leukemia made me as weak or maybe even weaker than Mr. Shuffle, not that cancer is a competition. You know this already; I’m just trying to convince myself that I don’t have to minimize my experience. I’m reminding myself yet again of the dangers of social comparison, which sometimes makes me feel better about my situation, but more often makes me feel worse.
So Mr. Shuffle, I’d love to nurse you through your illness, but I’m hoping you have your own community of support since I don’t have the energy. Believe it or not, I’ve got cancer too. I may look perky now, but my road has had its share of bumps. I hope you’re able to regain your strength and that you’re feeling better soon. Fight the good fight and know my heart is with you.
Then the Validator wisely reminded me that feeling crummy is often one stop on a cancer patient’s way to healing. Wise woman, that Validator. I hope she’s right, for Mr. Shuffle’s sake.
The Real End