Cancer remains surreal experience
May 8, 2010
Welcome to the world of insecurity, and realizing that, no matter how safe you think you are, you have no guarantees.
You can control your habits and actions, but you cannot control forces beyond your impact.
This is the world of cancer; this is the world which has been walked through by many of those who attended Relay for Life, and why that fundraiser is so important.
I do not believe that it has been nearly 10 years since I had cancer. To be more precise, I hardly believe that it was I who had cancer. That was, as it recedes into memory, someone else’s nightmare.
It was someone else who, still anesthetized, not yet comprehending that the endoscopy showed probable cancer, looked into my wife’s shattered eyes, her gaze of fear and brokenness.
It was someone else who said to my wife, on the night of diagnosis, the unfinished sentence “It’s not fair...” It was someone else who, during chemo, said to my wife, “ I just dream of being healthy...”
However, it is definitely I who never again want to see that desperate look on the face of the woman I have given my heart to.
When they scope me, I always ask to be semiconscious now. That way, if it happens again, I will know first; I will be able to comfort her, rather than dumbly fighting my way out from anesthetic while she suffers.
Terry Tempest Williams, in “The Clan of One Breasted Women,” echoes those images of the world of that which you never anticipated. Tempest Williams grew up in Utah, country of nuclear testing, during the 1950s and 1960s. “Clan of One Breasted Women” is her ironic paeon to the lies, half truths, and coverups that the government used to justify its weapons testing in the Southwestern deserts.
Thus she, a non-smoker, non-drinker and health food practitioner, wonders if, and sometimes when, the cancer that has hounded her female relatives and neighbors will rear its tentacled head into her body. I pray for her that it won’t.
In my prayers, I remember the 200-pound, 45-year-old bench presser of his own body weight, who would have reassured anyone who asked him that, based on lifestyle and habits, he would be very low on the list to get cancer.
I also remember the survivor who has ridden 75 miles on a bicycle, who has hiked as far up Pike’s Peak as weather would allow, in fundraising for good causes.
Or maybe to remind himself that it’s once again reality, and not just dreams, of being healthy.
It matters. It paints your world, my world, with a wash of watercolors the hues of which we were unaware in our naive, pre-cancer days.
It is not entirely bad. It is a world where the voice of a granddaughter calling one to play with toy cars is a sound to be cherished, not ignored, where Lance Armstrong’s phrase “Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)” has true meaning.