Welcome to the comments and discussion of Chapter 7: Mortality Bites of the book, Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s! Catch up on Chapter 1: Ramenonmics, Chapter 2: When G-d Things Happen to Sick People, Chapter 3: Single, Chapter 4: Human Spectacles, Chapter 5: Malignant and Indignant, and Chapter 6: Something in the Air.
Let’s get started! Chapter 7!
This chapter was hard for me. The phrase mortality bites hits the nail right on the head. Living is hard. Living with a cancer diagnosis, manifesting itself into chronic symptoms that may or may not be taken seriously by a healthcare team bites. Outliving a loved one bites.
“My brother’s death was an awakening for me. For me, cancer was the C word at that point. I had to dispel a lot of fear around the C word. I finally realized that cancer can be a vehicle for transformation, even if it means death.”
“Mourning someone I had met only once for four hours felt like an act of trespassing, as if I were sneaking into the backyard of those who were grieving the loss of Amilca as a wife, mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.”
Man oh man…I underlined more in this chapter than in all of the other chapters combined. Over the weekend, while at CancerCon, I had the privilege of volunteering for the Chronic, Metastatic, and Advanced Cancer session. I walked into the session, introduced myself to the two women running the hour and a half discussion, and figured out what my role would be in time keeping and tissue monitoring. I made it very clear that I was not a metastatic patient, respected the safe-space needed by those who were, and insisted that I therefore not actually participate in any of the sharing/participatory pieces of the session. I knew when I walked into the room that my role would be one of quiet support and love.
It was one of the hardest hour and 30 minutes of my life.
These brave and courageous souls shared of their fears of being forgotten, their acknowledgements that death could be close or far away, and the silent truths held by those who face death and mortality every.single.day.
I had trouble holding in my emotions during various points in the session. I looked up at the ceiling a few times, willing the tears to stay in my eyeballs. I wiggled my toes and started messaging the other members of the steering committee with about 20 minutes to go, hoping someone could grant me access to the locked room we stored our CancerCon-magic-making supplies. I needed a place to let it out and I knew that I could not do that while in the session or out and about the rest of the conference.
Usually, when I am scared of something difficult and cancer related, like death, my healthy peers wait it out as I speak (or blather) while keeping their distance physically and emotionally. When I finally was able to burst through the door into the steering committee office, tears flooded from my body and I spent the next 20 minutes repeating myself and shoving starbursts into my mouth. My fellow steering committee member hugged me with tears filling her own eyes. Slowly, other steering committee members started coming in. Each one would hear what I needed to say and start to cry themselves, hugging me all the while. They stepped up, came forward, and stood with me emotionally and physically as I melted into fear and anxiety.
In that moment, I knew that I needed to be a part of CancerCon and the steering committee for the 2017 conference. Understanding the frightening reality running rampant in the Chronic, Metastatic, and Advanced Cancer session is not for the faint at heart. And most of my healthy peers refuse to approach the issue with any authenticity. I get it! I really do! It is scary thinking about an illness manifesting itself into something that cannot yet be cured. I live with that fear though, and my fellow young adult cancer survivors do too.
Thank you to all of the young adult cancer survivors who have shared their stories with me; who have given me pieces of their courage, their warmth, and their love. I am forever grateful for the tears, fears, laughter, joy, and love that we have given. Here is to sharing so much more quality of life together, even in cases where quantity of life is lacking.
And to all of those metastatic warriors out there…you are my heroes.
Thanks for joining us for our Chapter 7: Mortality Bites of Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s! Join in next Monday for Chapter 8: The Myth of Eternal Optimism.
If you’re just joining us, here are some logistics:
We will talk about a chapter each Monday until the book is done. Then, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers. Read along with us!
How are you enjoying our young adult cancer book club?