“It’s hard to understand why someone as loving and wonderful as yourself has to endure something like this.” Although I’m normally pretty modest, I agree with my friend. What did I do to deserve this? The answer is nothing. The appropriate proverb is, “life’s not fair.” Everybody knows this is true, but we are still surprised when it becomes personal. It’s just not fair. And who doesn’t believe that it should be?
This is the third time I’ve been treated for a type of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. I was first treated at the end of college, and just before my 5-year check-up, it came back. I was treated again, we thought successfully, but three months later, the cancer had moved to my lungs. I have essentially been getting chemotherapy for the last two years.
When I was treated in college, I approached chemotherapy as a sentence I had to serve; all I needed to do was endure the 14 chemotherapy treatments over 10 months, and I would come out the other side. I more or less wrote off the year I had to spend in treatment and was living to get to my release date.
When I relapsed five years later, I promised myself that I would not be straight-up miserable for another year. I would find ways to be happy, anyway. That was a great idea. At first, I had no idea how to implement it, but the difference was that this time, I was looking for ways.
I found them. I found solace in my family and friends; I let them in. When I got a social invitation, even though I wanted to stay curled up on the couch with my husband and cats, I set my default answer to “yes.” Over time, I learned which friends to go to when I needed someone to say, “that’s just how I would feel.” And I learned who to go to when I needed to be told, “that’s too bad; you just have to do it.” Perhaps more importantly, I figured out that I needed both, and I learned where the fine line between processing and dwelling hides.
I have moments, hours, or days sometimes when I am miserable, and I get stuck again on the injustice of it all. But I realized also that I am blessed by the people in my life, and that any kindness I’ve tried to hand out in the past has been multiplied and handed back to me. My world has been stormy for the last two years, and I don’t know when or if it will calm back down. But I now know where all the best ports are, and they are so beautiful that I feel compelled to share them.
The following is not really a story about cancer, nor is it really about me. It’s not about the storm; it’s about the ports that I discovered along the way.