Last week I passed the 6-month milestone of being diagnosed with cancer.
Six months is a long time. Half a year is a long time.
After I was diagnosed, an old high school friend who was diagnosed with cancer years ago got in touch with me. She told me that after her diagnosis she told herself that she was going to have a really crappy year, the crappiest year, and then she would move on. I know there is no exact time frame for cancer but I felt a tiny little glimmer of hope when I realized that I'm in my second half of my crappiest year.
It feels like I was diagnosed a million years ago but I still feel so new to it all. I still feel really uncomfortable and awkward when people use words like "fighter" and "survivor" and "battle." I don't feel brave. I feel bored and annoyed. My cancer does not feel like a battle I'm actively fighting. My cancer feels like an interminable wait. Waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for appointments with specialists who book up months in advance. My cancer experience has been largely passive. Rah-rah words and encouraging fist pumps feel disingenuous.
Which isn't to say that I don't appreciate the love and support I've been given - I do! I guess what I mean is that I feel like a bit of a cancer fraud. Like having the good cancer (ha! haaaa! sorry, still can't say - or type - that with a straight face) means that those words don't apply to me. Maybe I'm being too sensitive. Or maybe I'm not.
A video went viral a couple weeks ago. A woman who was about to undergo a double mastectomy had an operating room dance party with her surgical team. To Beyoncé. Pretty bad ass if you ask me. Do know what I was doing in the operating room before my surgeries? Trying not to cry. Now, whether or not you think you would have had an operating room dance party is not the point. The point is that this woman did. This woman is dealing with her cancer by having an operating room dance party before surgery. Her cancer. And yeah, someone filmed it and someone put it on the internet so of course everyone feels like they have the right to chime in. It's in our nature to judge and I'm not saying that I am above it. I'm just asking that you sneer at their dance moves or song choice (who am I kidding - no better song exists for an operating room dance party) instead of dismissing how she are dealing with her illness.
The criticism I saw (not just by crazies in the comments sections - by people in my own social circles) blew my mind. You guys, I saw it referred to as "cancer porn." How can we own our experiences and overcome the hard times if we're belittled and mocked? Why is enthusiasm so terrifying to some people?
I'm in the second half of my crappiest year. I'm trying to find my new normal. I'm having kitchen dance parties with my kid and eating too many carbs and denouncing freshly mopped floors as a time and sanity suck. And I'm trying to remember that the cancer police don't rule my experience and that just because I am not undergoing chemotherapy doesn't mean my cancer isn't real or scary or whatever else I decide to call it.