Joining the war on cancer

Cancer is war. And by war I mean: ‘months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.’

I’m borrowing the phrase, first uttered amid World War I, not to compare my queasy gut with soldiers in the trenches and front lines, but to grumble about a day on the edge of sick, restless jitters, drinking quarts of water… and not much else. I’m counting today among the months of boredom. 

Don’t get me wrong: cancer is terrifying. And I’m not saying I haven’t felt some fear. But, fingers, arms, legs, toes and hair all crossed: after day one, so far so good. My fear pokes me in unexpected times and places. I get off the elevator on floor 5, and pass the sign that says “Oncology.” I hang up the phone after talking with a friend of a friend in stage 4. At some point I’ll probably be barfing my guts out; maybe I’ll feel fear along with miserable. I probably should fear all of the poisons being shot into my bloodstream and the “less common side effects” and all the “don’t blame us” in the clinic release form, but I’m trying not to think about all that (yep, denial). Down the road I may be facing complications from surgery, or taking too long to recover, or getting a report of cancer’s return; then I’ll feel fear. But even worse than that, Trump moved today to officially pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, and that truly is a moment of terror.

Even while acknowledging I’m choosing what to focus on, here’s what I’m not afraid of:

  • My hair falling out
  • Poking myself with the needle that injects my immune system booster
  • Wobbling up the stairs, slowly
  • Losing my taste for mint chocolate chip (woah, could that really happen?)
  • Giving up my occasional dram of Scotch (temporarily)
  • My hair growing in grey and frizzy
  • Having to pee every five minutes
  • And the list goes on…

These and all the other indignities are certain, and trivial; this is the small stuff I don’t sweat. In the meantime, I hope, I’ll really try, to keep fighting for the big stuff.

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