I live with pain and fatigue. If you've ever been pregnant or on your worst period, imagine that fatigue. Then imagine that multiplied by, let's say, 3. Or maybe 5. That pain that you have? You feel it in every joint, tendon, muscle. Sometimes it's dull and nagging, if your pain meds kick in the way they should, and you'd qualify it a 5. Sometimes you can't get into any position that's comfortable or provides relief, and you just try to take sedatives to sleep through it. No matter when or how you move, it causes an audible cry or moan of painful transition. Relief becomes a necessary mental exercise.
I live with uncertainty and shitty odds. I know we all live with uncertainty, but my uncertainty stares at me in the face every morning I wake up, every night I go to sleep. When I hear my children laugh, I smile...and then I cry because I don't know how many more times I will get to hear them laugh, like if that amount is small enough to count on my fingers and toes. I think all the time that I probably won't see them get to grow up and become adults, and see what kind of adults they become. So I try so hard to focus on the gratitude now, that I am able to spend time with them and see them grow til whenever I can't see them grow anymore.
I live with a measuring stick in my brain: how my time line and all that I've gotten to experience measure up to those of my young friends who died from cancer: the kids they didn't get to have, the relationships they didn't get to experience, the dreams they didn't get to realize. Sometimes, and I know this sounds crazy and might offend some people, I smoke a cigarette in order to be able to breathe, to level the playing field in a sense, if you can imagine. It's like I'm sitting there, sucking in the carcinogens once in a while to feel less guilty for being alive, like life is a cosmic soccer match (I'm not athletically inclined, so you can substitute whatever sport metaphor suits you, okay?).
So I sit there sucking down my Benson and Hedges menthol slim and sipping my homemade red wine, watching some sparrows jump around the dog house. And all of a sudden, all I hear is the door behind me open, and my four-year-old firecracker Moxie say, "Mama, can I draw a picture of you?" And that sound is music to my ears. Relief is immediate for once.
That's what being a cancer survivor means to me, 8 years later.
*written in honour and memory of my friends who have moved on