I really really really wanted it to be true
If you’ve ever had people look at you as if you’re dying — and I mean keel over right this minute dying, the way they look at you when your cancer is Stage 4 and it’s in your goddamned brain — then you will do anything you can to make that stop. What a relief, I told the tantra people last summer, to be in a roomful of people who treated me as if I was (more or less) normal. I long to be like everyone else, all my quirky specialness aside. I long to do everything you do and take all the stuff you do every single day without a second thought for granted, just like you do. I long for this fucking cancer nightmare to be over. I long for my real life to start. Yes, I know this is my real life. It’s not how I want to live it.
The downside of all this faking
Yes yes, I so get the whole fake it till you make it thing. If I SAY I’m feeling better, won’t I just naturally feel better because I say it is so? If I focus on the good stuff, doesn’t that open the door to more good stuff? Law of Attraction and all that. What you focus on becomes real. Your actions follow your thoughts. I played up the good stuff because I wanted to believe it. It felt better to believe it. Better than spiraling into fear every time I feel a little twinge here and there, yes?
Except it wasn’t fucking true. Not all-the-way-true.
And even though it wasn’t fucking true — even though I have very good reason for it not to be true (I HAVE CANCER LALALALA!) — I judged myself. Constant compare-and-despair with all the plucky wonderful people who are doing fantabulous things with their lives, creating e-courses and painting dozens of paintings and creating videos and making tons of money. And every day I scanned Facebook was another nail in the Coffin of Judgement, another piece of evidence that I Suck.
Self-judgment is bad for the health.
Kahuna told me if I want to compare myself to someone, go look in the graveyard. Because just about everybody with my diagnosis is dead now. And he’s right. I’m a fucking miracle.
The monster in the closet
Let’s say you have a headache. You down a couple of aspirins, maybe, or call it a night and curl up in front of True Blood. You don’t think much about it except hey, you had a headache. But when I have a headache I have good reason to jump all the way to BRAIN TUMOR ALERT. I spent the better part of last year with a constant headache. And I had tumors in my brain. No coincidence there. So tonight I have a headache and it’s all I can do to not freak out. So I start going through the reality checklist, all the little health indicators I’ve accumulated over time. Weight gain. Check. Skin tone. Check. Can still do yoga. Check. I’m upright and not on the couch. Check. If I make it through the reality checklist, I can relax. Maybe the headache isn’t four new Fucker Bear tumors sprouting. Maybe I get to go on with life.
But honestly, I question every twinge. Every little pain, every time I’m a little more tired than I was the hour before, every teeny tiny thing that might possibly point to cancer on the upswing. This is not how I want to live.
So most of the time, I resist it. I say I’m feeling awesome when I’m not. I claim to be happy with the progress I’ve made and I try really really really hard to be patient. But deep inside, I still worry. I’m not all the way on top of this thing yet, and I know it.
I want to be the miracle story
Here’s another thing. I really really really want to be that one-in-a-million how’d she do it story. I want book deals and speaking gigs. I want people clamoring to know my secrets. But mostly, I want to get on with life and do the things that make me feel awesome and not have this Sword of Damocles cancer thing casting a shadow over me. I want to paint and dance and go out to eat and have tea with people and stay up late and get up early. I want to rest in tantra community and go on long road trips and not have to factor in when my next coffee enema is due or when I need to juice next. I want to be on the other side of all this, basking in the glory of just being alive and living to tell the tale and feeling better than I ever have.
No more Pollyanna
Fine. From now on, I’m going to stop spinning things like a fucking Pollyanna. It’s a form of minimizing my experience, and I think that serves no one. I’m supposed to be the honest chronicler, the Real Life Story that people can relate to. I’m supposed to be striving for ruthless authenticity. Fine. Start with myself. Start with this cancer thing. So here’s the truth:
Most of the time I feel like crap. Every day it’s a struggle to get out of bed. I don’t want to. Ever. I want to stay in that warm bed and live in a dreamworld, but because I love my Kahuna so much I get up and do the coffee enema and make my breakfast and eat it, even though all I want to do is have waffles and watch Sherlock or make art or just lie in bed and look at the ceiling. Just about every day I make myself go to yoga because I believe it’s helping. Most of the time I feel better afterward. Just about every day I force myself to juice and then drink the damn things. Just about every day I slog through my routine and try to think of one thing I can do that day that lightens the weight just a little bit. Just about every day I congratulate myself for having made it through another one.
I have big dreams. Big desires. I keep thinking that if I put one foot in front of the other enough times, eventually I’ll get there to that magic place. I hope I have enough time.