welcome to cancer

wild sweet pea bouquet

This is about the last thing I ever expected to be talking about to an unidentified number of anonymous strangers, especially when I am not anonymous. But I have breast cancer. And it's hard to pretend otherwise, even if it means opening up a door I'd rather not enter. Cancer simply takes over, wrests away control—or maybe only the illusion of control.

It's like I've been grabbed unwilling and pushed into a raft floating down a river. I don't know where I'm going or how bumpy the rapids will be or how long the trip will take or whether I'll make it all the way out to the big open sea. Right now I'm just in the middle of the stream, high up in the mountains, and I can't get out of the boat. It's easy to ask, Why me? I'm the one who doesn't smoke, drink, or do drugs, the one who walks a lot, avoids caffeine and meat, eats plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, and healthy oils, takes daily vitamins, and visits the doctor for preventative care, the one who rescues house spiders—WTF? But I don't know that there is a why. One theory is a period of acute stressors. But no one knows. Lots of people are stressed and don't get cancer. Or maybe I've killed too many ants.

You never think such things will happen to you, though awful things happen to people every day: car accidents, shootings, rapes, beatings, natural disasters, trips and falls, toddlers found floating in pools—let alone all the nasty diseases that can sprout within the body or jump between bodies. Sometimes the unthinkable does happen. And then you're marked, set apart from everyone else—given notice. It has already begun shifting my perspective. Though we are all, in a way, the walking dead, some of us are . . . more so.

A lifetime is finite. Cancer is scary because it taps you on the shoulder and whispers, "You will die." I don't know when. None of us does. But it will happen. Everyone we love will die. And nobody wants to think about that. Nobody wants to hear about cancer. I certainly didn't. Those were the articles I didn't read, the news programs I avoided. I'm already bored of the topic, and it's only just begun. Yet death is what gives meaning to all the simple little things, all the small beauties and pleasures around us. Thinking about death can help us live in the present, instead of sleepwalking, to remember and choose what's most important—which, usually, is other people.

So I'll spare you the gory details. But this is happening. And it's changing me.


  1. Anonymous31/7/15 20:29

    I love your blog, I don't visit too often, but enjoy it when I am here. Just wanted to say that I am hearing you and sending you strength and good wishes.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and well wishes. The announcement was something I wasn't completely sure about broadcasting to the world, but I decided it would be a gesture against denial. And since taboo topics feed on secrecy, I also wanted to shrink some of that power by lifting off the lid and letting the light in.

  2. Anonymous3/8/15 14:38

    So stunned to read this. I'm sending positive thoughts your way. And kudos to you for putting the news out in the open; I think that sharing things like this helps to lift the burden a bit. Best wishes.

    1. Thank you so much. It's funny: I'm such an hard-core introvert but lately I can't get enough socializing. Not feeling alone through hard times is what gets us through.


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