I never thought I’d be jealous of someone's idle chatter about their ghastly looking shoes they need to return.
I listen to people talk nowadays in a fog of my own internal grief and hopelessness. It's a fog I’m very much trying to see through in the best way possible - I’m on the phone with my therapist, I’m running, I’m trying to imagine brighter days not leaden with worry and pain and guilt and fatigue, I’m telling my friends honestly how I’m feeling…
And yet I’m so jealous of the issue of the ugly shoes that need returning, and I'm jealous of the woman across the wall from me, spelling out in detail how disappointed she is with her new phone: “You can’t even hold it. There’s no place to lay it on your shoulder.” And on she goes to more phone-related atrocities, like how she can’t figure out her settings.
“I’m telling you," she tells the person on the other line. "I hate it. It’s just the worst." I drown out the rest but this goes on, and I find I'm envying such grievances, such non problems. When was the last time I returned a pair of shoes? I think to myself.
I envy the women walking out to their car, talking about their weekend. I envy the ease in which “when my mother goes food shopping” comes out of my coworker’s lips in normal conversation; I don’t remember the last time my mother was able to go food shopping, as her leg and hip has been so bad for so long, withering away.
That leg and hip that have been the focus of recent worries. We blamed them for her successive falls. In reality the problem lay northward, manifested in jumbled, incomprehensible emails from a sharp-tongued English teacher and scattered speech.
And as I text my brothers about her brain mets I'm receiving calls from my own doctors. “The soonest I can get you in for a consult is….September 6.” So, you’re telling me I won’t determine how much of my boob I will be allowed to not cut off until September 6, ten days away? I don’t ask this. I weakly try for something sooner, to no avail.
After I “weigh possible outcomes” with the radiologist in ten days, I will have exactly 6 days to decide on what I “want” to do. I have a vacation planned this coming week, to help me relax before surgery. It’s a “staycation” sort of, and I hate that word. And during it my mother will be in the hospital.
Will I be in surgery when my mother is in brain surgery? We won’t be at the same hospital, of course, but will it happen at the same time?
I have to admit I never knew one could feel so much pain and carry such a weight in their chest over compounded problems. There has rarely been a time in my life I haven’t had to worry about someone’s health, but it was always distant and manageable somehow. My everyday was not, in large part, impacted. Now it is every second of every day; it is every pain and every worry.
I started writing this blog so not only I could update friends and family but so others could relate. I self-consciously recognize now that not many people will be able to relate, actually. Maybe, now, someone with cancer reading this will find solace in these alien circumstances of mine, of this simultaneous mother-daughter cancer and say, "Oh, at least that's not happening to me." And that will be nice for them, I suppose.
Not for me though. I seek out books and blogs and websites and forums and am disappointed to find they all focus on a single sphere: "your cancer." I feel alienated and strange, like there is something I or my family has done, some wrongdoing, that is causing this. I feel foolish, though, as there are people around the world who suffer actual atrocities, while I am a white girl getting premier care at a top cancer hospital and I was recently able to buy a house with a very nice kitchen.
I look ahead to days unmoored from mourning, I know they are out there, and I know I will reach them. I look ahead to days I’m not too shy to join my new community’s “newcomers club” - where I’m not too self-conscious to meet brand new people with a bald head covered by varying wigs.
I look ahead to days I feel healthy and weightless and as worry-free as possible. I used to firmly believe there should be no such thing as a “throwaway day” or “throwaway year.” I know I sound real dark here, but I have realized, in reality, that I was wrong. There are days you want to erase, especially when filled with little else than pain.
I look ahead, because the alternative will swallow me whole.