I have always hated that phrase. I don’t know why, but even before I was diagnosed, I was never fond of it.
I mean, DUH!! Of course cancer sucks!! And I’m willing to bet all the cancer patients in history can tell you that! Why do we need to make a catch phrase out of something so damn obvious?! Can’t we think of anything better to say to these people?!
But… BUT… now, after having gone through what I thought would be the hard part. The surgery. And now that I am knee deep in this shit show and farther into it than I ever thought I’d have to get, and witnessing Murphy’s Law in everything up until this point, I am starting to get it.
Cancer doesn’t just “suck.”
Cancer does more than that.
Cancer sucks the hope out of you. It sucks the life out of you. It sucks everything out of you.
It takes things away from you that you never thought you’d need to fight for. Your body. Your fertility. Your hair. Your dignity. Your emotional stability. Your independence. Things that were yours, and only yours are now being monitored by doctors and surgically removed because they are threatening your life.
It’s easy to put up a good front, because what are you supposed to do when this happens? You can’t exactly deny it and go on with your life like nothing is wrong. You have to accept it and move forward and take the punches life is now guaranteed to throw at you. I mean, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?! Might as well be graceful about it.
People seem to be all impressed with my attitude throughout this process so far. They usually see me right after I’ve had a nap, or when I’ve remembered to take my Clonopin that day. I don’t usually let people see me when I’m not feeling my best.
So, what they don’t usually see (if I can help it) is me breaking down in the middle of a church service (and not just breaking down—I’m talking body shaking, thanking-the-Lord-people-are-singing-and-can’t-hear-me bawling kind of breaking down), frantically searching for a tissue because I could’ve sworn I’d put another pack of them in my purse before we left the house. And being too afraid to call attention to myself (or miss communion) by getting up to run to the bathroom.
What they don’t see is me crying in my car on my way to work because I randomly think of something that happens to upset me. Doesn’t even have to be cancer-related. It could be some strange what-if situation involving Warren. Or some squirrel happily living his life climbing a tree. A beautiful morning sunrise. Or a flower on a tree. My emotions don’t really discriminate these days.
What these people also don’t know is that I can be perfectly happy, laughing at a joke one moment and the next tearing up because someone asked me a question that I’ve previously answered a hundred times without crying but, for some reason, is affecting me differently this one time.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate.
It is actual DAILY frustration and disappointment. It is an incredible high followed by an incredible low. It is impossible to predict and the things that seem unimaginable are easy and the things that seem easy are impossible.
So, now I understand why they say “cancer sucks.” Because it doesn’t stop there. What it really should say is, “cancer sucks [fill in the blank with what cancer has taken from you today].”
And that truly sucks.
But there is another side to it. One that is hard to see on days like this. But it is there. If you search hard enough.
Cancer sucks, but it also gives. Cancer gives you new friendships. It reconnects you to old friends. It helps you realize you are not alone. It opens doors you never thought existed.
And, I think it’s time to bring this conversation to the Internet. Let’s be honest here. Cancer isn’t fun. In fact, it is so far from fun that I don’t even have a word for it. Devastating could be one (and I’m only dealing with Stage One).
But it is also exhilarating. In a way. It liberates you from those insecurities you had before your diagnosis. It frees you from “friends” who haven’t checked in on you even once since it all began. It helps you figure out, even more, who you are as a person and what you’re willing to put up with.
Because when someone complains about a guy not texting back, or you can’t get your hair to look “just right” one day, you figure out what is really important. The superficial things that used to mean the world to you, to an extent, no longer matter.
So, yes. Cancer SUCKS. But it also forces you to look at life from a completely new perspective.
And that is what cancer has given me.