Tuesday, January 29, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll got it very right this week:

So I talk to the afflicted, and almost always I say, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do." It's a thing that people say. They say, "I'm sorry for your loss," if an actual loss is involved - would that include amputations? They say, "Everything happens for a reason," and then a large bolt of lightning turns them into a mound of charcoal, and a ghostly voice says, "What have we learned from this experience?"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cancer has made me a crankier person

Earlier this month, distinguished cancer blogger Lymphopo powerfully described the experience of revisiting the ward where she got chemo, only to have a full-blown panic attack once she got there. She concluded:

And now, even though the worst appears to be over and I'm coping extremely well, adjusting, healing, rebuilding, still, at a very deep cellular level, permanently etched in my very neurons, I remain deeply traumatized. And this buried cellular trauma can be triggered and might rise up to haunt me and debilitate me at any time. Fun, eh?

So in one sense there's healing and moving on, but another sense there's no such thing. No matter how strong or brave I try to be, reality will never be the same.

She also admitted that she was tired of writing about having been sick:

If I decide to start another blog it'll probably just be a trivial chatty little what-I-ate-for-lunch dealie, amusing for me and my dogs and a few close friends but not so much to anybody else.

I've been meaning to blog about this post since I read it, about a week ago, but I've had a hard time getting around to it. Partially because I've been busy, but also -- let's be honest here -- because I am also tired of writing about having been sick. This is the damnedest thing: I want to shut up about it, as if I can will it into nonexistence through my silence.

In physics, there's the story of Schrodinger's cat. It's supposed to illustrate the strangeness of quantum mechanics. A cat is shut up in a steel box with a device that, at some unknown point, will kill the cat. While the box is closed, the cat is, in a sense, dead and alive at the same time.

This story also beautifully illustrates what it feels like to be a cancer survivor. Everything is both fine and awful at the same time. You may be alive; you may be dead and just not know it yet. The exquisite awareness of your own mortality wears away at you, like sandpaper, leaving you exposed and irritable.

Which reminds me: Got offered the senior discount again at the health food store up the street. That's it: I'm done shopping there. They can kiss my 49-year-old...