Sometimes I forget I have cancer. Like, hours will go by and I didn’t think about it. Those hours are a liberating while they exist but when I remember, I feel a metaphoric gut punch.
So that’s probably why I’ve been operating in a closed off mindset this past week. I’m not really allowing myself to feel anything about my cancer or my upcoming surgery. I’m on auto-pilot. It’s almost like I’ve settled into this new normal in which I am a person who has cancer. It’s still weird to say, “I have cancer.” It feels a little like cheating because I’m not sick outwardly. I don’t feel like I deserve to go around claiming it when there are people hooked up to chemo, losing their hair, battling fatigue and puking and not being able to work or play with their kids. I know I said we shouldn’t compare our worst things and here I am doing just that. I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.
The surgery next Wednesday isn’t scaring me like last time probably because it’s a known thing to me now. I know where to go, what to expect, trust the hospital to deliver great care, and understand the process. I wouldn’t say I am looking forward to it but more that I want to move through this next part of surgery and recovery to get to the results part. As much as I am terrified of what the results will be, I have to face it.
But still, I’m having trouble really feeling hopeful. I feel like saying that out loud is a total jinx but it’s my current truth. I learned growing up that hoping just got you hurt. I’m trying to learn that you can hope and still get disappointing news and that doesn’t mean the hoping was hopeless. Does that make sense? Hope is a powerful tool to keep ones spirits afloat. It gives lightness to a heavy thing. It’s important to have, especially when shitty things are happening but the hardest to grasp when you’re in the muck of all the shit. I’m working on this daily though I don’t know if I’ll ever be “good” at it.
Another thing I’m not sure I’ll ever be “good” at is fully grasping that I matter to people just by being me. Take a look at this:
These cards that hang in my meditation room are a constant reminder that people care about me. Each one lifts my spirits and makes me pause to consider how I’ve been living under false assumptions.
In therapy, I work a lot on my sense of self-worth. I’ve operated under the notion that I had to do certain things or behave in particular ways, and hell, even look certain ways (thin) to be worthwhile. I’ve struggle with feeling worthy of love pretty much my entire life. And then the doctor finds some cancer in my cervix and WHAM! I’m flooded with love from friends near and far, friends that I only known through the internet, old friends I haven’t spoken to since elementary or high school who somehow remember me so clearly and so fondly – all which forces me to look at myself in a new way.
Sometimes I feel like Stuart Smalley with my “gosh darn it people like me!” realization. Other times I joke that this must be what attending your own funeral is like. I know it’s morbid but seriously, when else do you get to receive this kind of outpouring of love? It’s bigger and deeper than any birthday celebration.
I’m trying to digest all this. That I do impact people in a positive way. That I do matter to people (some of whom I’ve never met in person). That I am important in this world just by being little old me. I hate that I had to get cervical cancer to learn some of these important life lessons but I’m grateful nonetheless to be able to see myself and the world with new eyes and a more open heart.
I will always have fears, but I need not be my fear, for I have other places within myself from which to speak and act. -Parker J. Palmer