Feeling the lumps beneath my skin grow and spread puts an entirely new spin on that phrase ticking biological clock—the cancer version. When I began this journey, I could not understand why so many people choose radical treatment against all logic. That still would never be my choice, but I have developed some insight into why many people beg, Do everything, when everything in the end signifies nothing.
Why do they not ask how much good time treatment will give them before they submit to the tortures?
Railing against an intruder into the body is natural instinct. Rip out the alien growth and feel better. Or so one hopes. “Fighting”, or the idea of it, is exhilarating. But cast aside the knife, lie down with cancer, train yourself to grow still at the core—and hear the backbeat of the clock ticking off your hours.
Most people only know one behavior style for dealing with terminal illness: Cry it out with family and friends. Isn’t emotional sharing a big part of Oprah’s legacy? This major emo style became popular in America because even idiots can blubber and talk in clichés while thinking themselves “sensitive.” All that sharing drowns out the backbeat. They don’t hear cancer’s clock
I refuse to submit to the will of the lowest common denominator, to sink into the false comfort of denial, where the pillows lump on contact. Yes, I do have my coping strategies but they don’t include meltdowns.
People say, “You look so good.” Roughly translated, that means I am neither bald nor wasted. They apply lower standards for looking good to me now. For some friends, seeing me in a rosy light is their form of denial. They don’t want me to go, not yet, not so soon. As long as I look “good,” they can secretly hope the cancer will go away like a bad cold.
Obviously I enjoy the compliments; and I never see anyone without make-up. I credit Benefit products, Lemon Aide that evens the color of eye lids all the way up to the eyebrow, brightening as it does so—and Erase Paste, a miracle cover-up that hides dark circles and softens lines. Looking good is the first coping strategy.
Friends also say, “You have an amazing spirit” or “a great attitude” or “such strength and courage.” No. They imbue me with those qualities.
From the beginning, I filtered out the tear mongers, the cancer curious, the judgmental, the people with poorly hidden agendas—i.e., Come stay with me and help me write my book, wouldn’t that be fun?—and later, the conniving relative and the simply boring.
I am left surrounded by positive people, who accept and respect my choices, are interesting conversationalists and can make me laugh. Feeling connected to good people and laughing with them is the best coping strategy.
One night this past week, Lorraine’s and Mel's friend Sally joined us for dinner at their apartment. Like Lorraine, Sally is a glamorous lady, smart and funny and open-hearted. Mel brought the food to the coffee table. We eat there now because I can’t sit on a dining chair, not even a nicely padded chair. How I wish my bony white woman’s ass were padded for pain, the bone-deep cancer pain radiating in waves to that ill-prepared ass. But sitting in the plush brown chair, ice bags—Lorraine’s idea— around my hips, talking and laughing with these wonderful people, I don’t feel pain.
Wrestling with some degree of pain every day in the waking part of my life. I cope. Blotting pain out entirely would cost me dearly in lost writing time, lost time with friends and the little grands—and you, dear reader. How close we can come to people we have only “met” online!
Sometimes I curse the pain, my physical limitations, and, of course, the Republican presidential candidates, but Dying has given me many gifts—
IF YOU'VE MISSED THE PREVIOUS POSTS--
Dying, The End Game, Part Six: A Quickie on Questions People Ask
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