September 28, 2016
I’m going to start writing again.
My goal is to be as prolific as J.K. Rowling on a Harry Potter bender. I want to eat and breath literary excellence, summoning the wise Virginia Woolf, the caustic Edith Wharton, the wisecracking Dorothy Parker…and roll it off the press faster than Danielle Steele’s latest and greatest…Or maybe I should be content to finish this short piece.
First, I probably should explain why I quit.
Before I had cancer, I loved to write about all the things I found amusing. I’d pound out a post during the day and then my husband and I would edit into the night over a few glasses of wine and a lot of laughs. Then I got sick. I tried to hold onto my humor through cancer and chemo, but it became increasingly hard as the treatments ended and I was supposed to resume living with rekindled purpose and joy.
But I didn’t know how. I was scared to eat anything for fear it would return. I was reminded over and over that reoccurrence usually happens in the first five years. As much as I tried to live in the moment and not think about that timetable, my thoughts always circled back. So I exercised until exhausted. I became a slave to perpetual motion…somehow believing the culprit was the sedentary sloth-like hours I spent at my writing desk. Ultimately I stopped doing EVERYTHING I loved since it seemed obvious the life I led caused that dreaded disease.
For the first two years I waited for time to pass, hair to grow, and my mind to reboot. I became fixated on things to avoid…chocolate, alcohol, coffee, stress, root canals, red meat, processed food, white rice, microwaves, vegetable oil, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks, …the list grew longer and longer as I turned each calendar page. I snacked on Brazil nuts and almonds, made a commitment to whole grains, and tried a conscious uncoupling with Monsieur Cabernet.
I wanted to figure out who I was, the “new me”, the one who could no longer write or read because my brain was foggy. I began small though lofty projects, but soon left them halfway done, moving onto the next. When I finished a book, I forgot its contents immediately. I would take out a mop, a footstool, or a vacuum, plug it in and walk away, leaving a perfect toe-stubbing obstacle course for my uber patient husband.
I was bald for over a year, with token cameos from my eyebrows, eyelashes and short patchy stubbles on my head before they would all exit stage left again. Every ounce of hair on my body went MIA for those first two years and I pined for everything from pubes to nasal follicles. I felt sexless and depressed and I just wanted to be left alone, but my mind was on a tape loop. If I ate or drank something that was on the no fly list, I felt guilty and worthless. It was not fun to go out to eat or rendezvous with friends as no one wanted to be reminded of illness. An uncomfortable meeting with an old acquaintance leading to a comment about my appearance could set me back for months. My emotional skin was thin, leaving me ultra-sensitive when someone found all those new little sprigs on the top of my head to be a real knee-slapper. I stayed home, tucking myself away in the writing alcove and bounced on an exercise ball, praying that I’d find a lift, while feeling like a spoiled brat for being depressed. For God sakes, I was one of the lucky ones.
Now that I’ve filled this page with doom-and-gloom, I’m going to tell you what I probably should have said at the beginning. I’m finally done thinking about reoccurrence. I am going back to my old mantra…”I am healthy and I am healed.” I will enjoy each moment, whether it’s writing this post, running a half marathon, or eating a super sized bacon-cheeseburger and fries. Besides, if cancer makes another guest appearance, wouldn’t I be pissed that I spent my days worried about it? I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself, get on my Quidditch stick and skewer demons!