Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part IV of IV)

Read these first:
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part II of IV)
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part III of IV)

“Don’t talk about death, I got too much life to live” – Ice Cube & Krayzie Bone, "Until We Rich"

In our final counseling session, Shari and I speak more about the future than the past: jobs, girls, growing up. “I don’t want to see you in a suckass job with no relationship,” she says.

We say goodbye, hug each other, and I leave. It is a warm, cloudy, spring afternoon when I step outside. The sky is gray, the leaves are green, and oriole birds are out in search of food and mates. I look across Emmet Street at the old, brown brick building, Newcomb Hall, which looks like all the other old buildings at UVA. Students are walking around campus, studying under the trees, at one with nature, just as Thomas Jefferson would have liked. I am reminded of the day I stepped out of the hospital in Minnesota and saw my dad standing near his beloved minivan, eager to sweep me away to safety.

In Phase I of my life, my dreams knew no bounds. I had ambitions of running for the Redskins, costarring a dark comedy opposite Mila Kunis, and being an engineer. In Phase II, the cancers, I had a single focus. Life was simple and purposeful. I miss those moments, like when I would find that temporary patch of health in the midst of total chaos. I miss time being frozen, unchanged until my cancer status changed. In some sick way, I miss the suffering. What if the climax of my life ended when my first cancer ended?

Now that I am well, the possibilities are endless again. I enter my bathroom, close the door, and flip on the light. I approach the mirror. I stare into the blackness of my eyes, the same eyes of Pre-Cancer Ben whose picture I carry in my wallet. I finally see myself in the mirror.

My eyes moisten, twinkle in the mirror and collect salty fluid. I think of how much I liked being a boy with a head full of dreams. There is no shaking, moaning, head jerking or snot flow. I am not convulsing and staring at the ceiling trying to fight it. I am in control. I am not afraid.

My right eye accumulates faster than my left one. My vision is blurring, and then I feel it—a single tear drop streams down my cheek, leaving a watery trail: proof. Proof that the code that governed my life—the same one that helped me cheat death and simultaneously stymied my growth—could be bent or broken. I’ve gotten this far and there is no telling where I will head next.

Much more of my journey can be found in my memoir, Twice