I have been wanting to write something about cancer for awhile. I wrote a bit on it when this all started and I haven’t written anything since. It would seem there’s a block. I don’t want to think about it too in depth just yet, in the same way you don’t talk about a frightening landing on an airplane until you’re safe on the ground. Rather, you hold your breath for the duration, don’t speak a word. Somehow it seems safer that way, avoidance. It’s funny how the brain protects itself.
In some ways I have been dealing with Peter’s cancer at a distance. He doesn’t live with me so every other week I knew I could see him and on his off weeks he went home to have chemotherapy. Sure he lost some hair (not nearly as much as expected though!), he was pale and tired, but he never lost who he was. I can count on one hand the amount of times he seemed overwhelmed or depressed. I occasionally accompanied him to his treatment and watched him realize that despite his misfortune, he was relatively lucky. As he would say, he was going through this with a cure pretty much guaranteed, while others were enduring the trials of chemo with little to no hope.
Despite the enormity of the whole situation, none of it has ever seemed real. I sometimes force myself to think about what his doctor said when he was first diagnosed in October, if he had waited much longer, he wouldn’t have seen the New Year. We would never have known anything was wrong and we would be in a much different situation. Losing him is something I can’t quite allow myself to think about, it’s a “what if” that despite being out of the question at this point and pretty much throughout this whole ordeal, is still too close to us, I can still feel it breathing down our neck.
I’m suffocated by how fragile life is, it weighs down on me. We take people in our lives for granted, of course. How exhausting life would be if we lived in our highest expression of love for our family and friends at all times. So, we normalize. In doing so, we take those in our life for granted, we have to act as if they will always be there because if we didn’t, life could not go on..and that is what we are best at, living life.
What I have learned most from being by Peter’s side during this is that life does go on. Ridiculous, incredible things can happen to you, things that would have been unimaginable in the past. People lose loved ones suddenly, they have a child with disabilities, they lose a major part of themselves physically or emotionally. Anything can happen. You keep going and you normalize. To Peter, it became normal that every other week he went to therapy and was filled with poison that was in some way saving his life and destroying it at the same time. To me, “cancer” became an everyday word, it became something I learned about, something I connected to others with, it suddenly became part of my identity as someone who has a loved one with cancer. And it will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Embarrassingly, I have had my moments of selfishness. I have wanted so badly for all his treatments to be done and when I truly thought about it I was so anxious to get on with our lives. I’m learning to live in the moment and have patience. Patience is not my strong suit. Ultimately, while I still have the ability to work and move forward, Peter’s professional life is truly on hold while he finishes treatment. I at times need to redirect and refocus my anxiety, use my energy in a positive way.
I believe that the only thing you can do in a difficult or tragic situation is to accept it, do not fight it, and choose to take something positive away from it. Any event in our life only becomes truly tragic when we don’t learn from it or allow it to change our lives for the better. For Peter and I, we have to focus on how lucky he is to have found his cancer before it was too late, his ability to now live his life healthfully and mindfully, and our new appreciation for the life we will have together, the one we easily could have lost. If you can take nothing away from your trials and tribulations, if you choose not to grow, that is the only real tragedy.