I spend the 15 minute drive to my day job each morning thinking about writing on this blog. I have lots of ideas churning around in my head, and although an idea might start off being totally unrelated to cancer, somehow everything I write about ends up cancer-flavoured (it’s hard to describe, but I can tell you it tastes nothing like chicken.) As much as I try not to write about cancer, I end up writing about fucking cancer. It occurred to me today that trying not to let cancer influence what I write about would be like trying to see someone else’s face when I look in the mirror.
It’s as if the word the cancer has been graffitied all over my psyche and there are just not enough spray packs of ripper stripper for the soul available to remove it all. Even if I do manage to wipe some of it away, something will happen and those words are writ all over me again, bigger and uglier than ever. This weekend it was a migraine headache which refused to budge for a couple of days, despite some heavy-duty medication. I suffered from migraines before cancer and in the past have had many that lasted as long, but these days a migraine pretty much instantly has my brain screaming ‘secondary tumour, secondary tumour, secondary tumour’. One of my cancer friends actually did the whole Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘it’s not a tumour’ line for me which made me laugh and a couple of hours later the headache resolved.
The fact that I have cancer friends doing cancer jokes about me potentially having secondary cancer demonstrates what I mean about it being written all over me. Of course I am, except for my right breast, 16 lymph nodes and my once amenable nature, pretty much the same person I was before cancer, but parts of me are vastly different and I’m still not entirely comfortable with that. I’m still in love with the same man, but he is now in love with a woman with one breast and sometimes that makes me feel so incredibly sad. I am still the mother of a gorgeous small person, but when I make parenting mistakes I mentally castigate myself about it, sometimes for hours on end, because what if I die and all he remembers is the times I yelled at him?
Some days the only thing that seems tangible is that I had cancer and I may well get cancer again; that word has been written over and over my soul so many times that I can’t remember what, if anything, used to be written there before. I have learned to accept these days, because fighting against them is pointless, and I also believe that the acceptance of them actually helps to reduce how often they occur. I often wonder what will happen if I make it to the magic five year mark, at which point I will be considered cured. Will the Cancer Council send in a psyche graffiti clean up crew to remove all traces of the unsightly tags, or will they be with me always, faded into a dull patina where the words are now unrecognisable but the sentiment lingers on?
I want so badly to find out. I want to know what it feels like to be someone who has been cured of cancer. The wanting of it is so visceral that I feel actual pangs when I think about it. Every day that goes by I am one day closer. Until then, and perhaps even beyond, I am marked, stained and defaced by cancer.