Thursday, September 20, 2007

Teeter Totter of Life (Part II of II)

Read this first: Teeter Totter of Life (Part I of II)

When I finished my first chemo cycle I called a friend from my hospital room. She was having people over and I wanted to share my joy that chemo wasn’t all that bad. The superhotty, Orange, answered the phone and asked how I was.

“I’m doing fine,” I said.

“That’s great. Do you want to talk to Zeke?”


I spoke to Zeke and a few others. They were just living their normal lives and I was living what had become mine. Getting out of the gossip loop was inevitable, considering I missed so many days of school. One of my best friends, HollaAtYoBoy, got a new girlfriend and I didn’t meet her for a month. I was spending much more time with my new "friends": my doctors, nurses and other patients. My primary nurse, Laughy, was one of my favorites. She enjoyed teasing me for being so quiet and always greeting her with a simple “hey” in my deepest voice.

I refused to hold my old friends back or complain about anything. I never said, “I’m not feeling well, come over to my house,” or “I just need someone to talk to.” Simply bringing up the subject of my troubles, mentioning it, was an act of complaining, to me. That’s a philosophy I continue to live by.

Looking back, I don’t know if I was fooling myself into thinking that certain normal human emotions and behaviors didn’t apply to me. I also don’t know that my never mentioning cancer allowed others to misinterpret what my days were like, how important milestones were, or cancer itself. But certainly that outlook aided in my feeling of invincibility. All those other cancer pussies complained about how hard it was, but I never once did, and often didn’t even think cancer was that difficult. I was better than the other patients, better than everyone, better than humankind. I was Superman.

My boycott on complaining didn’t diminish when cancer ended—actually, it became stricter. I created the ill-worded “no pussy rule” in which complaining was a sin.

My school status changed. Whereas in the past I went relatively unnoticed, now people sought me out to discuss the Redskins or wrestling. I even got asked out to homecoming. Are you asking out of pity?

Sports kept my life steady. I watched every televised NFL game and critiqued all the Redskins games, just like normal. The NFL season kept life moving, like each NFL week equaled one more cancer week I could cross off the list. No matter what went into or happened to me, I could count on football weekends.

I watched a great playoff baseball game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. In 13 innings the Mets won 3-2. After watching that game I realized everything was going to be okay; I was going to be alright. Even the stress-induced acne that had broken out across my upper body disappeared. Who would’ve thought a baseball game between two teams I don’t care about would have such an impact?

I was restricted physically, and substituted television and video games for playing backyard football. When I was aware of a neighborhood football game being played I almost didn’t want to hear about it.

I had my restaging scans after several weeks to gauge my tumor. It shrunk, as I expected. My teeter totter of life tipped back to my side a little bit, which unfortunately doesn’t happen for everybody. I had trouble understanding how some people could receive chemotherapy and it didn’t kill the cancer. I also struggled with the idea that not everybody expects perfect results. Do they actually acknowledge the possibility of death?

Continue reading "My Cancer Story": Welcome to the Good Life (Part I of II)


A Paperback Writer said...

In light of the fact that I just lost a former student and good friend 9 days ago to cancer (feel free to drop by my blog and check old posts about Toad), I'm happy to read that you are kicking some cancer butt here. Go you. May your fight be fully satisfying. (And get in a few punches for my friend Toad, will you?)

Julio said...

I’d like to contact you about a new initiative that I am launching called the Cancer Support Project as part of Experience Project – it is a hub for emotional support for cancer patients, survivors, and loved ones. Please drop me a line at Julio at ExperienceProject dot com so that I can tell you more about it and how we can spread the word.

Mary Witzl said...

Good for you for making it through chemotherapy, and good for you for your magic trick of knowing how not to complain. You could put a gun to my head and I could not carry this off; I whine, therefore I am. The thought of what I might say if I were to undergo chemotherapy just boggles my mind. Over the years, however, I have refined my whining technique. I don't do this in a 'poor, poor, pitiful me' way; I do it in a sophisticated, advanced bitching way. At least that's a little better than your average whining.