Over the last week or so I’ve been struggling with something stuck in my craw. I’m not sure what it is, although I’ve been trying desperately to find out. The thoughts go something like this:
Yeah, I know. All over the place, right?
Okay, let me address each in kind and maybe I can make sense of this jumble.
After I wrote my post about feeling alienated from my non-stage iv sisters (which was NOT a sympathy post) the outpouring of love and affection I received from the 2012 Sisters was enough to throw me off my feet. Don’t get me wrong, I always thought these ladies were super and the point of the post was not that anyone ever made me feel alienated, but that circumstances made me feel strange. Afraid to reach out and fear of being a downer. There was no common ground anymore. Or so I thought. Turns out I learned a valuable lesson.
Depending on where we are in Cancertown we feel fortunate, troubled, scared, or marginalized. The weirdness of daily life in an even weirder construct that exists inside of a larger stratified world. And perhaps it is within this weirdness where circumstances will leave us feeling alienated. But it is also in this weird place where we have the opportunity to either find ways to connect or just decide to move on.
In that weird place I decided to move on in order to spare myself and everyone else. But my 2012 Sisters took it upon themselves to find a way to connect. Someone posted the essay to the board, private messages were coming in at a clip, and I felt so welcomed. My friend Laurie sent me a lovely bracelet as a birthday gift and I’m going to wear it all the time. It is a reminder not to close myself off and know that I have women out there who have my back (and I have theirs). (By the way, this bracelet and others are really very pretty, check it out.)
As you know, I was happier than a tornado in a trailer park when I went back to the office. It was a moment. I was so happy. I had a couple of fits and starts after that, but that was okay. Today was my second full day in a row and I’m getting there–getting stronger. But I was unprepared for an experience that caught me off guard.
I felt very much like a stranger. You know, life has gone on as it is wont to do and I was kind of left in the dust. Working groups of which I was a part continued to move forward. My department went on with life as normal while I was home and sedentary as a river rock. No exercise put on some pounds and about three months of Purple Haze left me feeling not so quick on the uptake. So I sort of walked around feeling a little less than part of things and struggling to find that sweet spot.
Emerging from a cancer induced cloister and being plunked back into the world again just feels . . . I don’t know what it feels like exactly. It’s just . . . weird. And maybe it’s weird because of something so obvious it could bite my nose.
The Doomsday Machine
The Doomsday Machine is the title of one of a handful of stellar episodes from the original Star Trek series. It starred the great William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker. Decker is the only survivor on a ship attacked by an alien machine that ingests planets for fuel. Attacked by the alien thing, a battle in which the ship is almost destroyed, Decker beams his crew down to the planet for safety only to see the machine consume the planet. He’s obsessed with killing it and, predictably enough, dies on a suicide mission to kill the alien robot probe thing (which is actually a killing machine so powerful it was never meant to be used, but once it was, it destroyed its creators and roamed the universe looking for fuel).
Cancer is my personal Doomsday Machine. It was closing in pretty tightly until my Tamoxifen torpedoes held it at bay and forced it into a kind of retreat. But it’s never going to go away. It just slows down and stalks me. To determine its location I get scans every 4-5 months to see where it is. I used to think the Death Star was a good metaphor, but the Death Star is shrinking rapidly. Soon it may be no more–which would be quite nice, actually. (Take that!) The outposts have shrunk too. (Screw you!) The scan I get in a week will tell me. But it can never tell me where the Doomsday Machine is. That is always there. Waiting to consume me.
And maybe that’s what makes life so surreal these days. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in opening myself up to the same level of kindness and warmth I would like to give anyone. But with a killing machine stalking me for the rest of my days, life lends itself to feeling marginalized and not quite right. You know, just as I have cancer on the shelf something is said or felt or imagined that knocks it off. Then I have to face it, pick it up and place it back on the shelf, and then try to walk away and forget about it. And life, being the little earthquake that it is, keeps knocking crap off the shelf. I play this game countless times in a given day. Some folks call this the “new normal.”
To hell with the “new normal.” With stage iv disease there is no normal–new or otherwise. Indeed, it is a perfectly unnatural state.
In my recent spree of deleting old drafts that when nowhere, I unintentionally deleted my reblog of Marie Ennis-O’Connor’s post “Establishing Your New Normal: Life After Cancer.” I tried to reblog, but WordPress reminded me that it’s already been done. So I include this link so you hopefully you won’t miss it. It’s a good read!