Something my husband gets annoyed with is the sympathetic looks from people.
“How is Willow doing?”
“Are you guys holding up okay?”
“It must be a struggle. Is she very sick?”
What most people don’t realize is that terminal cancer is kind of a long-haul disease, especially if things are going well. For example, sure, I lost my hair during chemo. But I finished up with that part of my treatment about three months ago. As such, I have the most adorable baby fuzz hair imaginable. But as far as negative side effects, pain, and sickness go? I’m still in the honeymoon stage of Stage IV.
That being said, there are not awesome things. For example, I still am not supposed to be eating anything that tastes delicious. I literally eat 4 or 5 handfuls of spinach for breakfast each morning and I feel guilty every time I eat a piece of cake (wait, I was doing that before, so not a huge difference).
But, generally speaking, I’m pretty good. Actually, I’m REALLY good. I think I’m the happiest I’ve been in about 10 years.
It’s a weird thought. Cancer is actually making me a happier person. That sounds really virtue-signal-y, but it’s actually true. Here’s why I think that is.
1. People don’t like saying “no” to a lady with cancer.
So, I don’t love that cancer is kind of an emotional explosive device…except when I do. I mean, really, I probably shouldn’t use the cancer card to get people to come to church choir practice, but WHY NOT? Choir is good for you. Cancer is scary and sympathetic. If I’m using my cancer to get people to do things that are good for their souls and also make our church service sound better, is that so bad??? Maybe.
2. Financial institutions are pretty good about giving cancer people some leeway.
There are actually a lot of different programs designed to help mitigate the financial toll of cancer. For example, Social Security Disability, Student Loan Debt Forgiveness, and the free wig closet from the American Cancer Society. Because of that, the stress of paying for cancer is alleviated some, even though it’s really expensive no matter how you shake it out.
3. You have literally nothing left to lose.
One of the coolest things about cancer is the shift of mindset. Like, I’m working on several very large projects right now—a musical, two anthologies, editing and publishing my book, foster parenting classes, etc.—and I’m not stressing about ANY OF THEM. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. They work out or they don’t. People like them or they don’t. If something fails, that’s fine. I’ll do something else with my limited time. If it is wildly successful, that’s fine, too. The fact is, I am already facing the scariest, worst possible outcome. Nothing else can fail as hard as my body failed to destroy some freaky-ass cells that refuse to die. So, yeah. Not getting on the Stoker® short list is a tiny bummer, but, hell. IT’S CERTAINLY NOT CANCER.
4. There’s a deadline for your dreams.
Possibly the best thing about cancer is that there’s a deadline. I mean, sure, I still don’t know the exact date, but it’s a line in the sand and I need to get moving to get all this stuff done. For a writer (and one who procrastinates quite badly, at that), having a solid deadline is actually a wonderful gift. There’s no “some day” or “when I retire” for me. In fact, I have no idea if I’m getting to see my daughters graduate from high school, much less if I’ll ever see the fat side of a 401k come home to roost. So, instead of focusing on the “one day,” I’m trying to focus on this day. After all, this is the only day that really counts. Even you sitting here reading this right now…you don’t have tomorrow promised. Take a second and really consider—is this the life I want to be living when I die? Because it really might be.
Yeah, so. I loved wigs even before I had cancer. But now I have cancer and I HAVE A REASON TO WEAR THEM ALL THE TIME. And I think to myself, “Why did I ever NOT wear a wig. This is awesome.” It’s just super cool to always be a surprise. Every Sunday I go to church and I have someone tell me, “I had no idea it was you.” That’s the coolest part.
6. Death is still a long way off
To return to my original thought, the best thing—the thing that makes cancer tolerable right now—is that death is still a long way off. My tumor markers are at an all time low (except from before I had cancer, I can only assume). I’m in no pain. My body can still do things like climb mountains and jump on trampolines until I pee myself.
It’s much like being tied to a train track on a gorgeous day. Sure, I’m tied to a train track. Every once in a while, I think I feel a slight vibration in the metal beneath my head. But, damn. It’s a beautiful day. Why not enjoy it while the train is still far in the distance?