The Cancer Journals: Separation Anxiety
This week, Sheelagh discusses the increasingly difficult relationship she has with her body and the cancer cells within it.
Yesterday I was so miserable, I ate an entire chocolate doughnut.
“Deal with it!” I told my body flatly, as years of well-honed protests arose.
I need to find a gentle middle ground between the endorphin highs of motorcycle adventures and the dread and despair that settle in once the endorphins crash. I really can’t live long in either world.
I find myself talking to my body – and the cancer now – out loud. Fortunately I live alone, so no commitment papers have been filed as of yet.
The cancer cells are a very real presence to me. I can visualize them trekking, heading down to the safety of my lymph system, their trenches, looking for a new settlement. I understand my liver and lungs are the most attractive spots. Wide, open spaces promising future growth potential.
“Where are you now?” I’ve asked them in a cajoling tone, while staring into the 3 a.m. dark. “You’re stupid. Don’t you know you’re soiling your own nest? I die, you die.” The cancer cells never answer. I don’t know where I expect the reply to come from, but I think they’re pretty smug about what they have managed to accomplish so far.
My body on the other hand, is a damaged old friend. Sometimes I get angry at it. “I was good to you,” I complain. “Why did you betray me?” I think my body feels guilty it’s let me down.
My body and I talk to each other now in both old and new ways. Each morning and evening it announces its newest problem and anxiously waits for me to fix it. The mouth sores, the constant foul taste, the muscle spasms, the swelling of the lower extremities, the general unease in the gut; the hair & eyelashes that continue to fall.
“Help me, boss,” it pleads. I do what I can.
More frightening is any new sign or symptom. It startles us like a noise in the night. “What’s that? Are we still OK ?” I try and soothe my friend, “We’re OK. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Woody Allen was right. Once you have cancer a headache is no longer just a headache; it’s a brain tumor.