I do not believe that cancer is a good fit for me.
I have given this a great deal of thought, and I just do not see how my personality and general outlook on life are compatible with having cancer.
Although I would not characterize myself as a pessimist, I do believe that I am most appropriately described as a realist, which is of course how pessimists refer to themselves in their (rare) more optimistic moments. Realists are those who are all too aware of the trials and tribulations that life, under the best of circumstances, presents. And cancer is certainly not the best of circumstances. Thus, as a realist with cancer, I have become regrettably ever more aware of the problems of life and, to be blunt, death.
If I were an optimist, while I probably would not be celebrating my diagnosis of an incurable form of leukemia, I would at least be trying to find glimmers of positivity amongst the countless white cells, the frequent oncologist visits and the endless stream of EOBs from the insurance companies. I could look at my diagnosis as a clarion call to value each day I do have and the love of my friends and family that I can still enjoy. Stated a bit differently, as the old saying goes, I would make lemonade from the lemons that life has handed me.
I am not generally opposed to lemonade, I should say. It is sweet without being cloyingly so and, though I do not envision any long, ocean-bound cruises on a 17th century galleon in my near future, one can never be too complacent about developing scurvy. Yet I do not see any realistic situation where I am going to take these lemons and turn them into a mostly sugary outlook on this life-shortening illness that I have managed to acquire. In fact, to go a step further, I generally view lemonade makers as either willfully uninformed or proudly ignorant. I may be doom and gloom, but at least I have my principles.
In light of all of this, it has come as the greatest of surprises to me that I found myself – despite myself – churning out lemonade when it came to my cancer. That lemonade is this the subject of this blog.
Before you eagerly click through to my first postings in the hopes of learning what metaphysical insight into the universe I have uncovered and chosen to share, let me lower your expectations. This blog is not about how to maximize every day or even how to appreciate one’s mere existence. This blog also is not a how-to guide on the ways one can use the new understanding of the fragility of life bestowed upon all cancer victims to spread love and kindness to the world. Those would indeed be lofty and important goals. But they are, of course, too optimistic for this cancer-sufferer.
Instead, what I have stumbled upon during my years of battling cancer and undergoing “treatment” for it, is something that I have always possessed but never thought would be of any use when it came to my uncontrollably dividing white blood cells. That something is my sense of humor and, perhaps more importantly, my ability to find the humor and often ridiculousness in all that I have gone through and continue to face. It is this ability to make others (and sometimes myself) laugh in the face of what is so horrifying that has given me and those close to me the ability to get through these very difficult times.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say that laugher is the best medicine. I find that the chemo drugs that I have been force-fed through my overly-abused veins to be much more effective than a good chuckle when it comes to killing off unwanted lymphocytes. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, there is nothing in the least bit funny about cancer. It is, in a word, terrifying.
But being able to laugh – often after the fact as sometimes it is a challenge to see humor when one is having a bone marrow sample drilled out of one’s ass — has helped me to stabilize the chaos otherwise swirling around me. Writing this blog is intended to give me the outlet I needed to avoid drowning in the ever-present overwhelmingess of cancer and the horrors of the treatments for it. My ability to poke fun at so much of what is so tremendously frustrating about all one goes through with cancer — the tests, the procedures, the doctor’s visits, the well-meaning but clod like friends and family, the poking and the prodding and, most poignantly, the unknown and unknowable — provided me with a sense of doing something that I could control and that I could possess. For those moments I was not merely at the mercy of my disease and those attempting to help me. By finding the humor in what was happening I was able to put my mind often at ease and, while not exactly enjoying the experience, to at least feel as though something quite positive was coming from all of this suffering.
It is my hope that by sharing the events and oddities that I have faced during this struggle with cancer I can help others to understand not only what they are undergoing or are about to be subjected to but see some ray of sunshine in what is often such a gloomy existence. I also sincerely believe that by relaying my often shocking and ludicrous experiences – all of which are well within a standard deviation or two of what passes for the norms of modern medicine –others can feel not so alone with their cancer or the cancer afflicting those that they love and care about.