Some people go on vacation, lie on a beach with a crinkly paperback, and come back with a some tan lines and iPhone photos to show for it. Other people, like the folks from Timelapse Media, go on holiday and make incredible stop motion masterpieces.
Love this. Peru has always been on my “must see” list.
I Am Not Your Hero by Sarah Cate I am not a hero because I’m fighting Cancer. I’m not worthy of someone’s pedestal because I am choosing to fight for my life. I am not more beautiful, more courageous, more strong, or more worthwhile because I am fighting to be Cancer Free. And I am tired of being told that I am. I am tired of this pinkwashed view of Cancer patients. Of their strength and beauty and wisdom. My Cancer fight is not pretty. My Cancer fight is not laudable. It just IS. In fact, most of the time, it’s pretty unpleasant. Sometimes downright gross, humiliating even. Komen, and Pinktober, and all of these campaings to “raise awareness” (and line corporate pockets) have created this view of Cancer patients as though our diagnosis and our struggles turn us instantly into angels… or in the sadder cases- martyrs. But thanks to all the pretty propaganda, I wonder how many of us are really prepared for what it means to be a Cancer Warrior. The world sees the fight against Cancer in a sea of pink product lines. In women wearing pretty wigs and scarves, crowded in clusters of pink waiting to walk for 3 days towards “a cure.” The world sees strength and hope and courage and signing credit card slips with pretty pink pens adorned with ribbons. But the honest truth of being a Cancer Warrior is not so neat, not so pretty. And maybe it was just me, unprepared. Maybe I’m the one out of the loop. But I doubt it. I have seen the world the way I was told to see the world. The way we’re all told to see that world. Which isn’t to say that fighting Cancer isn’t a hopeful thing. But it’s not awash in pretty pink ribbons- and not just because we don’t all just get breast cancer. The truth about Cancer, about being a Cancer patient, a Cancer Warrior… is frightening. It’s painful, and stressful, and oftentimes- humiliating. It’s surgery. It’s recovery. It’s popping a staple and oozing in a hospital room at 4am. It’s blood and scars and lines and bruises. It’s finding a vein after 4 sticks because the nurse didn’t listen when you said your iv was slipping. It’s pain. It’s having to call for help to get to the bathroom. Having to ask a stranger in scrubs to wipe your ass because you can’t reach that far. It’s not showering for 3 days because you can’t stand to have a relative stranger see you naked in order to help you. It’s walking squares around the hospital floor with a walker, and a tiny PT nurse at your elbow. Trying to prove that you are capable of moving on your own so that maybe, MAYBE you can go home. It’s waiting to heal well enough to try and start treatment. It’s wondering if you’ll heal in time to be able to partake in a research study that’s better monitored than standard treatment. It’s realizing that the study is a hit and miss and that what you really want is best achieved outside of it. It’s late nights reading about your diagnosis, reading statistics, gathering facts. It’s realizing you fight or you die. It’s realizing how close you could have come to dying in the first place. It’s fear. It’s stress. It’s discomfort. It’s saying the words, “I’d rather go overkill on treatment now, then wish I had later on.” It’s realizing that even once you are someday declared Cancer free- you will always, ALWAYS live in fear of it coming back. Because it can always come back. It’s being home. Exhausted. Overwrought. It’s losing your job for missing too much time. It’s going from being neurotically independent to having to rely on EVERYONE for EVERYTHING. It’s daily trips to the hospital in 105* weather to lay on a table for 10 minutes while they shoot you full of radiation. It’s 3 tiny dot tattoos on your abdomen to make the process faster to line up. It’s fighting the urge to throw up every hour of every day for weeks. It’s diarrhea. It’s spending 10 minutes trying to eat, and 3 hours in the bathroom. It’s a panic attack at your first chemo session. The sheer terror of the unknown. Its the taste of the heparin flushing your port. It’s stinging and itching. It’s feeling a healing poison seep through your body. It’s the sheer weightless exhaustion of that first treatment. It’s watching your body disintegrate in the mirror. It’s being grateful that you started out fat because otherwise- you’d look like a holocaust survivor. It’s not recognizing yourself in the car window, not understanding the shape and feel of your body. It’s feeling 2 years of self-work on body peace slip away from you inch by inch, pound by pound, meal by meal. It’s the unspeakable, indescribable trauma of watching your hair fall out in clumps. In headaches, and pain and the feel of your skin crawling on your scalp. It’s finally giving up and shaving off what’s left. Because it is the only way to stop wanting to kill yourself when you look in the mirror. It’s buying hats and scarves and trying them on as carefully as you can- so that no one can see what you’re hiding. It’s watching people start to recognize you. To recognize your disease. In public. It’s watching their faces change, watching pity wash over an otherwise normal smile, watching it flood their eyes. It’s trying to find something to eat that doesn’t taste like burnt rubber. It’s plucking out your own few eyelashes because it’s less painful physically than constantly fishing them out of your eyes as they fall out on their own. It’s the irony of your eyebrows falling out, but your leg hair remaining resolutely in place. It’s debilitating pain. It’s feeling like your bones are filled with stuffing because they are weak without the strong thrum of marrow that is destroyed by treatment. It’s eating Vicodin that doesn’t really take care of it all, but you take it anyway because otherwise it’s not even worth opening your eyes. And sometimes, it still isn’t. It’s hiding from friends and family because all you ever want to do is scream. Because the only thing you can do is complain, or vent, or be angry because you are sick and tired and in pain. So you spare them. You hide. It’s ugly. It’s disgusting. It’s painful. It’s not pretty, or strong, or hopeful. But we do it. Because we want to live. Because I want to live. And maybe that in itself is strong, or courageous, or hopeful. I resent how ill-prepared I was to start my Cancer journey. I resent the halo that’s placed on the head of a Cancer Patient by sheer virtue of diagnosis. It’s great, as long as you don’t have to join their ranks. But as a Cancer Patient, eyes aglow with the flood of pink-washing I’d seen for so many years, one of the hardest things about this whole process was realizing how un-pink Cancer really is. I deserved more honesty than that. I’m tired of this automated response of “You’re so brave.” I’m not brave. I just want to LIVE through Cancer.
A very interesting perspective that hits the nail on the head in so many ways, even if I don’t feel all of this myself. I have a bit of an uneasy relationship with the whole “brave” thing because as I read it somewhere once, if I’d had any choice I would have run screaming away from this thing as fast as my legs could carry me, which is I suppose an option.