It's been a wild week. I've found myself stuck in my FD journal, the one which I jotted things down in while in Colorado, and am finding it hard to pull myself (and my writing) back together. I am very sorry for those who are waiting with baited breath to read about this adventure, it will come when it is ready. As a door prize I'm going to post a slide show after this post of photographs taken by the camp photographer (with photogs permission, FYI) during that week juuuuussst so you don't think I've made the whole thing up. In keeping with my promise to remain honest here, I will share with you instead what I've been preoccupied with these last many days. I'm a touch ramble-y tonight, this will be a flood of thought
I cannot, for all of pain and sorrow and loss it has caused, be angry at cancer.
This sounds insane, no? It was a moment of striking clarity, and healing too, this week when I realized that I am not angry at cancer. I can't even be a little pissed of at it. Not even a bit.
Maybe this is why, even though I've stitched my own version into fabric which sits on display in my living room (and these words were extremely therapeutic at the time I spent 4 hours stitching them), I can't feel an exceptionally strong connection to the 'Fuck Cancer' mantra anymore. Please understand that I know that this is a very popular battle cry among young adult survivors, and is exceptionally healing for many, hell it was for me too. The Stupid Cancer logo for I2Y, an organization I hugely support, is a hand giving the bird. I love the word 'fuck' and I am not particularly fond of cancer (duh.)... I'm absolutely certain I've said 'fuck cancer' at some point on this blog and MEANT it...so, L. what gives now?
Well. Cancer is, by its nature, entirely random. It does not seek out individuals to break down and destroy. It cannot. It is just a (sinister) collection of cells who have lost complete control. These cells do not know the person they are living in. They have no idea of this person's actions in the world, good or bad. They were not set into this being on purpose by any greater power, at least I don't believe they were, for any reason. They simply don't know that they are causing pain. They are doing what all life is trying to do: live. Multiply. Building cities in our bodies. Populating and spreading.
Are there risk factors, actions or circumstances or crazy inherited genetics that can increase the likelihood that you will get cancer? Viruses? Chemicals in the environment we live in? Terrible chance? Abso-fucking-lutely. Duh. You're reading this, you know that. There are these same risks for a million other diseases as well, many have the same terrible impact that this whacked-out cells have. In fact, there are countless ailments which ARE in fact caused by ill actions of the afflicted. Is the patient EVER to blame? NO. Is cancer a punishment, to patient, family or friends? I certainly don't think so.
Cancer is as bizarrely unpredictable in nature as a snowflake or a raincloud, and just a unique. What it does to each person is entirely dependent on the complex nature of each body it grows in and the connections that body makes in our human world. This, and please don't think I'm crazy for saying so, is strangely elegant and beautiful. A deep cellular beauty that defies the laws of life. Cells which can no longer die on their own, they only know how to live and grow. They've somehow forgotten their place in the circle of life. Fallen out of the circle completely. It is very difficult for me to NOT find the random absurdity of my cancer fascinating. Patterns and scrambled patterns and patterns turned inside-out which find patterns again. I suppose, perhaps, nature does always seek to order things, no matter how chaotic...
Ultimately, nature is cruel. It did not soften its rocks for us to climb on because we've suffered at its hand before. It didn't make the wind warmer or the sun less harsh. It doesn't know or care what human lives we have lead before it mysteriously slips in a sets off those cells. These are all divine and painfully complex acts of a universe in flux. I do not think nature understands suffering, at least as we feel it. I can't write about the suffering of another species, flora or fauna, though I'm completely sure it exists outside of us somehow.
Suffering and pain and loss and guilt and anger and every emotion we are bound to feel (and I do mean bound) are our reactions to the situations that cancer causes in our lives. Cancer did not make me feel any emotion until I knew it was there. My awareness of it made it painful. Like a wasp that I didn't know was on my skin until I was stung. My loved one's awareness of it caused them pain and fear as well. Physically, I felt pain, as most cancer patients do at some point, but psychologically this was not as distressing as knowing why that pain was there. Knowing what was happening, out of control in my body, caused anguish. We like control. I like control. Cancer is the embodiment of an organism out of control. It is a very easy target for anger.
This is such a complicated gem to turn for me right now. This idea has been haunting me for awhile. What if I'd never known? Just slipped away, as so many have done, without knowledge of this thing? Well, there I find another paradox. I would not have known, but those I love would. I would have, silently and without at least the pretext of a fight for control, lost love forever as they lost me. This would cause them anguish. Another something that cancer cannot know.
Love. Cancer can't know love as it can't know loss or anger. It cannot know.
I suppose this is the ultimate cruelty of this disease. We are, as a species, aware. This is what makes us so different from the rest of the animal kingdom. We relate the world around us in a way that the world can't always relate back. For fuck's sake, we relate to each other in a way that can't always be related back. We make complex connections that span lifetimes. We dance with each others emotions and link our lives together, pull them a part, place value on things and each other. We love. Love in all it's varied forms requires a knowing.
Modern medicine has, to some degree, tried to regulate this oddity and kill these confused and damaging cells. It takes control. It reminds these tragically destructive cells of their place. Medicine can be tragic too. "Like a fire storm" is a term I've heard attributed to much chemotherapy. It is gruesome. Grueling on our minds and spirits and bodies. Even in targeted therapies, like Gleevec and the hundreds of other therapies- radiation, cyberknife, hormonal treatment, surgery, the list goes on- the unaffected body is damaged. There is simply no way to avoid the destruction and, for me at least, the knowing of this is what made it horrifying. I had lost control of my body and then it was taken from me. Thank the heavens that the same mechanism in my brain which had me know the horror happening to me and around me, also gave me the chance to know the light after.
You see, knowing all of this, is what makes it impossible for me to be angry at cancer. Using these precious moments on anger at something, cancer, which doesn't know any better, is just about as useful as being angry at the raincloud that soaked me. It is just as random. Maybe I could have known it was coming, seen some signs, but I could not know precisely when or how or where. The cloud didn't want to cause harm, it was just doing what it is designed to do. Instead, I will take that reserved energy to prepare myself with an umbrella for me and as many friends as I can manage, to weather the storm when it does come.
It is a terrible thing, what those cells set off in our lives. I am profoundly, deeply, nearly indescribably sad at what a cancer diagnosis causes. It pains me that anyone is set with the burden of this. That lives are lost and torn apart. That there is distress and suffering. It is awful. I am not, for a moment, expressing that it is not a horror show. It is. It is completely devastating. I guess that must be because we know. We love. And maybe that is why we suffer.
It seems now, after writing this out, that I still have no solid ground to stand on, just more questions to mull over. The eternal question remains (a question that would be insane and thoroughly epic to answer on a bullshit little blog): why? Maybe there isn't an answer. Rather, maybe the answer is just: because. I haven't the foggiest.
This disease has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of many I love dearly. I have a strong suspicion that I may spend a great portion of my life trying to work out 'why'. Today, the question is not 'why me', I've answered that before with an earnest 'why not me'. Today, the question is 'why them'.
The follow up may be, 'what are you going to do about it'. Well, cancer, as much as I can.