I just took a vacation from having cancer.
I have gotten to a point, it seems, with my living with this disease that I can live “without” it, too. Because that’s what I’ve been doing this past week. Being a liver, I guess, but not in the way that I usually think about it. I have been really living, and not thinking about it or about cancer.
True, some things don’t disappear: Like pills. Like chemo. Like side effects from chemo. Like not drinking alcohol. Like my scar. But these things have become so much a part of my normal life now that this week, when I was so busy living and learning about other things, I didn’t need to think twice about them. I was on vacation.
Generally, I don’t think taking vacations from having cancer are a healthy way of dealing with having cancer. Just because i’m not thinking about it doesn’t mean it’s gone. Just because i’m not thinking about it doesn’t mean my parents and my family aren’t thinking about it. If I don’t deal with the everyday, or at least the everymonth maintenance of it, it won’t just disappear like a cold. But I wasn’t deliberately trying to escape–I was on a trip for school actually–it just happened. I think this means I’ve done a pretty good job making room for it in my life.
But then, coming back from a trip like this and the reality of my health, and of second opinions, and of bills, and of insurance troubles, and of scheduling appointments and medication shipments… well, it makes me realize that I still have a long way to go.
Isn’t this the question everyone has when they come back from a vacation? Everyone has things that they want to take vacations from. What I want is to be responsible and do everything i’m supposed to do to care care of this disease, but also just permanently be on a cancer vacation. Enjoy my life, period; not enjoy it in between when i’m thinking about and dealing with cancer.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be so black or white. It’s not that I really mind going to the doctor or talking about cancer or thinking about cancer or writing about cancer (obviously. actually, I love writing about cancer). I just mind that in being diagnosed and in dealing with the emotional aspects of the disease and in being forced to do these things, I have changed. In some ways–maybe in most ways–yes, I have changed for the better.
But this week, I fit back so easily into the familiar metropolitan rhythm that I experienced in Chicago, and it felt so good. I felt so unburdened in a way that’s hard to reach now in my normal life. I spend so much time with this soundtrack running in my head: “What’s that pain in my side? That’s about where my liver is. It must be my cancer growing again. What if my cancer is growing again? What if it has spread somewhere else?” It doesn’t often turn off long enough for me to fit, and fully think about and get excited by, other, non-cancer related things in my head. I know, that’s not very mindful of me.
This week, I actually took off my “i am a liver” bracelet. I didn’t need to write–once. Aside from the few minutes per day that I had to think about remembering to take my chemo and the brief period on Monday when I felt sick… I wasn’t this person I’ve become. I was in my element. I was, truly, a liver. And it almost felt like I didn’t have cancer.