I am tired of cancer. Tired of, for now, being a survivor, tired of wondering if I am actually going to be a survivor in the longer term, tired of talking about it, tired of being conscious of not always talking about it, tired of being so physically tired that I spend much of my free time during the day fantasising about how early I’ll get to bed that night. Tired of living my life in six month bursts, in between the check-ups. Tired of wondering if the pain in my knee at night in bed is cancer in my bones. Tired of being resilient, being remarkable, being that funny girl who gave the speech at the high tea, she’s so brave. Tired of living with the stinking remnants of my fear and terror, tired of being worried about going on holidays to Mooloolaba because that’s where I was when my hair fell out during chemo and Dave had to shave my head with his razor while I sat on our apartment balcony, watching bits of me drop to the ground and willing myself not to cry. Tired of two and a half years later, still crying when I type that story out – how did any of this stuff actually happen?
The irony is that the last couple of weeks have been intensely good, and happy, and wonderful for us as a family. After five years of study – a four-year degree extended by my cancer (the ultimate studious interruptus) – my amazing husband completed his degree and will soon graduate. Before he’d even finished, he already had a job offer, and will start work in his new profession in the coming weeks. When he started this degree, I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like when he finished because four years is such a long time, and three years later when I was diagnosed, I thought I wouldn’t live to see him finish. On his last day of uni we went out to dinner to celebrate, and he admitted that when I got sick he thought he wouldn’t finish, because either I would die, or I would live, but life would change so much that the dream would remain unrealised. But we picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off, shoved our fake titty into our bra (well, that was just me) and here we are. Living the actual dream.
Except for the tired. I feel like I’ll never escape cancer’s clutches. That even if I live on, past that magic five-year mark, I’ll still be hauling bastard cancer along with me, the ugliest, tattiest, most travel-worn baggage you can imagine. Zippers broken and stuff spilling out, wheels fallen off so it has to be alternately dragged and pushed, handles repaired with gaffer tape, the sticky bits of which have picked up disgusting bits of dirt and detritus along the way. No need for name tags on my baggage, or a natty pink ribbon tied to it so I can recognise it on the carousel. No-one in their right mind would ever mistake it for theirs, and no matter how fucking hard I try, I cannot seem to lose it.
There’s no poor me in this story, for it is what it is. With the good comes the bad. With the joy comes the sorrow. With the living comes the tiredness. The ebb and flow of life rocks my boat; sometimes gently, so I can trail my fingers through the water and feel the sun on my face, and sometimes in crashing waves that see me bailing water like a crazy woman and pining with every fibre of my being for dry land.
Tomorrow there will be both water and dry land, as we make the trip to Mooloolaba. I won’t be leaving my hair there this time, but if you’re in the region and you see a tatty overnight bag bulging at the seams with dirty laundry floating in the surf, don’t try to drag it back in. Hopefully, by the end of our stay, it’ll be well on its way to the bottom of the ocean.