Some people have said that seeing me fight cancer was inspiring, the way I attacked it with humor and didn’t let it get me down. I appreciate hearing those words, I really do, but I know the truth. I know what was behind the jokes and silliness. I know that when I didn’t feel like being “up,” I pretended, and what people saw was often me pretending that cancer was nothing but a big joke.
It reminds me of when I first started as a full time software trainer. Every day I’d have a classroom of 12 people who were generally nice and eager to learn. But sometimes there’d be one (or more, when it was a class full of one particular government-agency-that-must-not-be-named) who did nothing but act like a total jackass to me and his/her classmates. I find it difficult to be nice to someone if I don’t like them. I couldn’t dish out the jackassitude in the classroom because I was supposed to be professional, so… I taught myself to act. I learned to act unruffled, to act like every question was NOT the stupidest question I’d ever heard, to act like I was the most patient instructor in the world, to act like I didn’t drink heavily on my lunch hour. And no one knew I was acting because, as Elaine Benes once said, “I was goooood.”
Weird. It’s like working for IBM prepared me to fight cancer.
Or maybe IBM gave me cancer. Hmmm…
Nah, if anyone gave me cancer it was adidas. They hated me there.
When I first got my diagnosis, I made a short-term goal: to get through it alive. I imagined that once I achieved that goal, it’d be smooth sailing—well, normal sailing, anyway. Kinda silly, huh? Because I did achieve that goal, and here on the other side? Not exactly normal. Most of the physical side effects I had while going through chemo linger. People are still super-duper hesitant to ask me to do things. I continue to need naps almost every day. My vision is fine and then terrible and completely unpredictable. I have trouble focusing, concentrating, and prioritizing at work. There are days when my brain seems to be sleeping way longer than the rest of me.
But one of the hardest parts of “not-quite-normal sailing” is fear. It’s really easy to be all HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY after hearing the doctor use the words “complete” and “remission” together. But the likelihood of the lymphoma coming back, or another type of cancer moving in, creates pestering and persistent anxiety in the back of my mind. All. The. Time. I hate that part of post-remission. I believe that positive thinking works wonders, and I’ve done my best to keep myself in la la land over all this. I know how to recognize the darkness before it comes and am learning to stop it in time. But still, that niggling reminder from my oncologist remains: increased risk of recurrence.
So, y’know, the fear thing sucks. It doesn’t change the way I live each day, but it’s a fact of my life right now that I wish wasn’t. My hope is that I can eventually turn that fear into something less anxiety-inducing, and maybe even into something good. I can do that, right? I can totally do that.
I really, really want to. I want to show that fear who’s boss so I can go back to putting my heart and soul into living my life. Those were good days and THEY ARE NOT OVER.
But until then, you may continue to prepare my Oscar award.