I’m having trouble articulating how I feel about my diagnosis. Funny really, since my life revolves around using words to convey messages and imagery.
But, as I said before, it is what it is.
I feel numb and indifferent. I don’t feel any different than I did before the doctor said, “You have cancer.”
There’s a surreal quality to being able to label myself as having cancer. It’s incomprehensible, and unreal.
I’m seriously not worried about the disease. I’m more worried about not being able to work. Progressive is great in that they’ll give me short term leave, long term leave, and FMLA… and I’ll not lose one dime. My security job, however, will probably have to go. And that money’s sorely needed at Dr. Zombie’s castle.
More important than that, though, is that I don’t feel angry. What do I have to be angry about? It’s nobody’s fault. I don’t believe in God, so I can’t be pissed off at him.
I guess I’m most affected by the fact that I now see my own mortality.
I’ve always thought of myself as immortal. I’ve always seen my life in terms of the things I plan to do. Now though, I find myself not looking forward like I once did. In the course of a couple of days, I’ve stopped thinking about things I want to do. I’m suddenly trapped in the swirling, curling chaos of the present. My sense of time is restricted to the upcoming few weeks and everything beyond that is now an impenetrable darkness stretched out like a dangerous storm cloud before me.
I think my attitude’s good. I find myself laughing about it, and making cancer jokes. I joke about being worried I’ll lose my hair (I have a shaved head). I’ll be the first to say that my fat ass and waistline could use the slimming efficacy of a few rounds of chemo. And things aren’t that bad. Even ten years ago, breast cancer would have been a death sentence. Not so now. Cancer IS curable. And I intend to be around for a very long time, but now there’s that feral whispering of doubt and mortality in the dark corners of my subconscious.
I AM angry because I suddenly feel that I need to do some of those things I said I’d get to later in life. And I find myself intentionally turning the wheel and skidding my imagination away from the affect my mortality will have on my kids. We’ve told them that Daddy needs to have an operation - but the idea of not being there for them when they first have their heart broken in high school, not seeing them off to college, not being able to see either of them get married, or not being able to kiss the fat bellies of their own babies is almost more than I can bear.
So I just don’t think about it.
And I find that I need to be strong for all of the women in my life. My wife has a good attitude. She went through her crying fits at the beginning, but she’s come around to my way of thinking that this is something to be beaten back and bullied into submission. My mother is a basket-case, my sister is quiet, and my boss and good friend Laura vacillates between crying and calling me a stupid boy.
And I feel the need to joke about things, to be strong. I realized today that I don’t feel the selfish need to say, “What about me!?!” It never occurred to me that I should worry less about them than myself, but I do.
I don’t think that’s going to change… but let me get back to you on the whole selfish thing after I go through my first round of chemo.
And then there’s the whole notification thing. I have to tell so many people… and fight my urge to just send out a blanket email.
Is that inappropriate? There’s so many people who need to know, but in just the last week I’ve had to tell family and that’s almost unbearable. So… for those of you who are finding out this way, I’m sorry I couldn’t contact you personally, but it’s just so hard. And, things are happening quickly. So quickly that I feel that I have little control, so please forgive me the coldness and impersonal nature of this… I’m going to have to pull the cancer card on this one. Oh, and get this! A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Half Price Bookstore and picked up a copy of Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not about the Bike. Funny, huh? It’s about his fight with the ball cancer. Whether it was a subconscious thought or not, I find it weird that I’m drawing some small comfort from it. Is it gauche to take that with me to read when I go to get my biopsy?
"To whom it may concern,
I got the cancer!!!1eleven!!
Sucks, huh? Anybody want to meet
up for a Guinness?
But, I digress - back to what I was talking about with the future. There’re certain things I’ve always wanted to do, but always put them off. And I think Mrs. Zombie senses that I’m feeling like I need to speed up my timeframe on them.
At first she was worried about my leaving her when I get over this. She says it’s happened before, and knows couples it’s happened to. The husband realizes that he could be banging 20 year old strippers and leaves the wife to go on a filthy whore trampapalooza.
I assured her that wasn’t going to happen. Lance Armstrong did that to his wife. She was there with him through the ball cancer and, once he was cured, he left her and started humping Sheryl Crow. I respect Lance, and think he’s quite possibly the greatest athlete of the 20th century, short of Muhammad Ali or Wayne Gretzky. But, no matter how you slice it, having the wife stand faithfully by while you fight cancer and then promptly leaving her afterwards is a douchebag move.
And I love Mrs Z. too much for that; even if Sheryl Crow decided to show up at the door wearing nothing but a guitar.
I do know that she suspects that I will become more adventurous, and I can’t deny that it’s a possibility. It’s been a constant struggle in our marriage to find common ground on these sort of things. She loves hotels; I love backwoods camping. She loves vacations with beaches; I’d love to spend a month in Alaska. She likes room service and nice restaurants; and I think food tastes best cooked over a campfire or a backpacker stove under a starlit sky with coyotes howling in the distance.
I’ve put off much of my outdoorsy, adventurous nature. And I don’t regret it. We have had to work, raise our children, and live day to day. There’s not much room in our lives to take a couple weeks and go hike in the Rockies. Again, I have no regrets.
Now though… now that I’ve realize that life can be short and fleeting …I know that I can’t put some of those things off any longer. And Mrs. Z is recognizing that. She may not approve, and it may not please her… but instead of camping under the Aurora Borealis, I could be chasing cocktail waitresses, right?
So… my list of things I need to do sooner than later. (And I’m putting these on here purely as an incentive and motivator to get through this as soon as possible.)
MY Bucket List (And I absolutely LOATHE calling it that, BTW….)
- Finish my degree and get into a Master’s program for English Lit.
- Drive the Dalton Highway above the Arctic Circle and dip my foot in the Arctic Ocean. – I long to see icebergs floating in cold seas, the frozen northern tundra, and polar bears.
- Go to Ireland – Drink much Guinness.
- Hike Isle Royale National Park and possibly see some wolves.
- Climb a 14,000+ peak in the Continental US
- Get another novel published.
On a final note – I think 75% of getting past things like cancer is a positive attitude. And I plan to keep joking and being positive all the way through… or at least as positive as I can be. I do have this carefully cultivated image of being dark and brooding to maintain….