Tag Archives: normality

16 July 2009: the same sad, sick self

My brain’s still operating strangely, slowly, a sluggard of drugs. Three o’clock in the afternoon, having only just really begun the day. Tea and Scrabble with H. earlier, feeling strange and anxious all the time.

Last night—the experience of seeing a double rainbow arc perfectly across Oxfordshire. A strange electric sky—and myself uncomfortable and drugged in the middle of it.

And always saying well, I suppose there is tomorrow.

This incredible sense of panic now, near-hyperventilating with having half-allowed my mother to book a flight for my return. Eventually I will have to do it, admit that America is there, my blank accidental future too, that everything I’ve ignored all this time still exists as profoundly. I try to convince myself it will be “good to” be home, to “sort things out”—but truthfully I want to see no one; I want to hide here.

How adolescent it all sounds. But this terrible sense of foreboding overwhelms—a dreadful, panicked, powerless feeling in which everything sinks in: the cancer, the lack of prospects, the dim grim end of our love.

Today on the train the air felt electric with waiting rain. A peculiar light in which even the Didcot power station appears majestic. The woman beside me wore a polka-dot dress and crossed her thin ankles on the seat opposite. I thought: how I would like to be reading these stupid journals in twenty-five years time, with all their desperate insistence on considering mortality, on feeling helpless in and worthless to the world, and to know that even this was a phase as everything else was, and that I did what I cannot even fathom now: live through it.

L. wondered whether four months since receiving a diagnosis had been enough time to “process” the reality. I don’t know—have not considered it. My first thought, nearly, on learning I had cancer was that I am not the “kind of” person who can handle it—believing that my inability to cope with it somehow made me immune to it. But nothing changes, not really—what, after all, is the “reality” of a disease you can’t see? So I have chemo and get sick and my hair falls out like in the movies and that becomes normality to me. I felt a rush of sadness this morning thinking how lovely it would be to be in my London flat today and feel some ownership over my own life—but I am not in mourning for it. What should I mourn for but the loss of myself—or, will I get to the point at which I do not realize I am already gone?

God, the uncertainty of the other side of the Atlantic—all the pain in between. My impossible love. I am so sorry for everything.

A series of countdowns now. 10 days til home; on return, 3 days til biopsy, then 8 til surgery.

In the bath I look down at my complete, living body and want to scream with rage and pain.

Thinking about the sadness of hometowns, unearthing old loves. I don’t want everyone else to go glibly on with their own existences while I falter and flounder. I was always so far ahead…

Did any of the rest of my life actually happen? Because I seem to have been deposited here without any point of reference.

I have been constantly waiting on the world to offer me something.

I am terrified of stretching to what would seem to be the outer reaches of my ability and finding nothing to draw on. Which explains to paucity of my production.

Usually I grow bored with blank notebooks, buy a new one in an attempt to strike out upon some more significant course and catalogue it. Now I’m faced with an insignificant ending, and a new notebook readily assigned with the symbolic pressure to be meaningful.

But tomorrow is just another Friday
And I am still the same sad, sick self

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31 March 2009: The euphoria of near-normality

A kind of reconciliation with loneliness, as in realizing that I am not alone entirely, and am ok with the places that I am.

The weekend was head-clear, a complete relief. Films and pizza and chocolate, laughter and closeness.

A catalogue of blessings. Swimming. Official deferral from Michigan. Finding Ritter Sport Knusperkeks in a convenience store on the corner. Strange, this swing. Feeling calm and happy–after those bad days. I’d call it a fair enough trade could I be sure it would be the same with each cycle.

 The continuing farce of my existence: K.’s mother may have chicken pox. I’m due to move in with them in five days, but may have to keep my distance for “a couple of weeks.” I dreamt up taking temporary residence in a holiday let by the seaside– On Margate Sands, burning burning etc.–but bookings don’t allow for spontaneous decisions, it seems. Nothing agrees with the things I dream.

To R, I wrote an overly hopeful, endorphin-induced email defending too vehemently my position, which is for the moment nothing but stasis. My Cancer Vacation. My beautiful delusion, half-homeless and waiting for the sun to come. Too many projects partially planned, as is the case with every stretch of time I’m ever allotted.

I clarified my hurt at his having told me, “I don’t want to come. You don’t have any business being there.” How I don’t know where this leaves our relationship. But where was it in the first place? Trying to communicate virtually. To believe that you can keep people that way. That you can keep people at all.

R. trying to force me into the role of “cancer patient,” whatever he thinks that is. Lovely young women dying smiling. I still remember the “Race for Life” those years ago, and the poem I never wrote–my embarrassment at these one-breasted women circling the high school track in pink t-shirts. Calling themselves “survivors” as if their lives were their own achievements and cancer had a thwarted vendetta. A moustached villain, tying you to the railroad tracks. Foiled again.

Pink bracelets. Marie Curie’s daffodil. That trashy paperback I read over and over when I was eight years old: a brave young woman dying of cancer. O, I thought, the brilliant tragedy of life!–which it seemed would always only happen to me in my imagination.

I can barely fathom sentences these days. They require too much commitment, too much foresight. Subject and predicate, connected. Things only occur in fragments and images. Yet my dreams have become elaborate, bizarre narratives with startling geographies–the expanse of the US from PA to Austin, Texas (all vivid and fantastic like the Lisa Frank covers of my elementary school folders), some realm that brings together Erie, Oxford, London and West-Hendred. And the people who have surfaced in my subconscious. My life flashing before my eyes every night with various surreal backdrops. I am dying in some way or another I suppose. And each time I wake up I feel like I’ve fought my way back from death–aching like I’ve been drugged or am emerging from some heavy hibernation or cracking open a coma.

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Only women bleed

Today, I do too.

Only yesterday, I was filling out medical forms that asked the dreaded “date of last menstrual cycle.” Dunno…April? May? June? When did the Zoladex kick in?

Maybe it’s the moon, or the fact that my mother got hers a day ago.

Or maybe  my body’s heaving this huge sigh of relief after the BRCA results. Ovaries! Periods! My stars, I’m giddy. I belong in a Judy Blume book. Are you there, God? It’s me…

When I was a teenager, my cramps were so unbearable I had to come home from school once a month. The pain was so intense it made me puke.

Today, the pain feels beautiful.

I’m finally identifying with Anais Nin and the awe of the “moonstorm.” 

Sorta makes me wanna run out and sleep with Henry Miller.

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19 March 2009: Pre-treatment

Three days of relative normalcy before I’m due to begin chemo. I know they’ll skip by almost thoughtlessly, and in the weeks and months to come I’ll long for that sense of health. Yesterday the NHS treated me to a battery of tests–bone scan, MRI, CT scan, mammogram–endured with surprisingly few complicaitons and refreshingly good humour. I was in near tears with laughter in the MRI waiting room as two armed guards led in a handcuffed inmate on a metal lead, clanking his chain while I considered the questionnaire: “Do you have anything metal on or about your person?”

I went to the gym this morning for possibly the last time. I left feeling light, unburdened, capable, and came home to a delivery of cardboard boxes in which to pack and deliver my books, my life–a more complicated undertaking than I originally surmised.

More and more today I’ve doubted my decision to stay here. I still have two days to call it all off, I suppose. I’m riddled with guilt; I don’t deserve the support and kindness they’re extending me, and yet I’m taking it all anyway.

I will be trapped wherever I go.

Tomorrow I’ll cut my hair short–become grotesque in stages.

I’ve been able to sleep lately, but am constantly exhausted anyway. It’s been a week. I’ve surprised myself by hardly crying, by making arrangements, or moving toward making them. But I can’t anticipate how it will be to have my body, mind and emotions ruled by drugs. To be so removed from life.

Though I wonder whether anyone will actually notice a difference in my absence.

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external shows

The other night we felt like slumming it and went to pick up Dominos in Didcot, where we saw the typical weekend chav-rabble cluttering the pavement outside, queuing up for pizzas and fish and chips. Obese. Smoking. Pregnant.

And I wanted to say, excuse me, it appears as if you’ve chosen not to use your god-given bodies for anything but destruction. Mind if we trade? You may as well take this one; it’s trashed with cancer anyway.

Anecdote: one of my hospital roommates (of whom more tales to come) was in for a hernia operation. From the other side of the curtain, I heard the surgeon explain to her that they had had to pull her stomach out of her chest.

Pull her STOMACH out of her CHEST.

“Uggh,” she said several times that day. “I feel like I’ve been pulled backwards through a hedge.”

The figurative language, I found, was insubstantial. Surely in such an instance it is more striking to speak literally: I feel like I’ve had my stomach pulled out of my chest.

So this is what I mean now when I say I dread the question “How do you feel?” Continue reading

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