Sometimes, when you have cancer, you just have to play the cancer card. I don’t play the cancer card much because no one can tell i’m sick and a lot of times it takes a lot more effort to explain to people that i’m sick than to just do whatever it is I don’t want to do–or want more time to do.
Also, a lot of times, I don’t feel like i’m sick enough to warrant getting out of things because i’m sick. It’s like the nurse in elementary school who judged level of sickness by body temperature. She would never send you home sick unless you had a fever. I don’t have a fever–so am I sick?
Last fall even though I wasn’t eating normally and felt nauseated all the time and was vomiting once or twice a day, I didn’t feel like I was sick enough to fall behind in my schoolwork or not do things because I felt sick, presumably because the sickness I felt was the norm at the time. Last winter when I took the quarter off of school I was sick enough because I had just gotten out of the hospital a few days before and I could barely walk–even though, going into the surgery, I had planned on going back. In the spring I was sick enough to take a light course load because I didn’t think I could handle any more than that. And things were still so up in the air with my chemo, i’m glad that I did.
And now, I’m back at school full time. Many of my symptoms are gone. And my doctors appointments are fewer. And the chemo treats me pretty well, aside from a few annoying side effects. Am I sick enough to play the cancer card? One part of me says: You have cancer–how much sicker can you get? And another part of me says: You’re feeling much better than you’ve felt in a year and a half–you’re not sick enough.
My friend says: Stop dissing your cancer experience please. Don’t be mean to your cancer.
It’s true. Chemo doesn’t kick my butt as much as some of the other people I know with cancer, but I have still experienced enough nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea for one lifetime. And many people with cancer haven’t had two and two halves organs removed…or have a liver transplant in their future. Maybe. This is what my cancer is–it’s hardcore surgery, not hardcore chemo. It’s not a race to beat it or die trying, it’s a long journey. A way of living different from any way I’ve tried to live before.
Another friend says: This is your story. This is no one else’s story.
That’s true too. Steve Jobs’ story isn’t my story. Neither is anyone else’s story who has cancer different from and the same as mine. It’s my story. It’s my sickness. It’s not measurable by a thermometer, it’s measurable by a blood test. A scan. A smile or a frown.
A lot of times, it’s just the emotional–not the physical–“sickness” that prevents me from doing things. Not that i’m depressed, just that I need time to process things and to enjoy my life. After I see the oncologist, no matter the news, I know I’m going to be a little sad for the rest of the day. Or, I worked my butt off all last week on a big midterm project that was due today. (Maybe you noticed I haven’t been blogging as much.) Now that it’s done, I am tired. Also I just finished my sixth round of chemo. I need time to to eat normally and to reclaim my body. I need time to do the things that make me feel well emotionally. This isn’t really recognized as a valid measure of wellness in American culture, but it’s increasingly valid to my culture.
So that paper that’s supposed to be due next week? I’m pulling my cancer card on you. I don’t have the energy to be single-minded and crazy for another week. I am sick enough to tell you to wait your turn.