November 5th, 2018
| Fighter: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
When you’re six years old dancing around and belting out Jewel, I think it’s safe to say that you haven't exactly understood the fact that hearts truly are "broken everyday." You’re oblivious to the nausea-inducing, seemingly soul-crushing state that almost everyone shares the pleasure of enduring at least once in their lives. You're blind to the fact that you can do just about everything “right” in a relationship and still wind up devastated. Unfortunately, the same goes with cancer. You can be living your best life in a daze of health and happiness only to find that a life-altering decision has been made without you. Relationships end. Lives end. Songs end, bringing your blissful moments of innocence and twirling through life to a halt. You're left with the sad reality that the people you love can hurt you and your own body can betray you. Heartbreaks suck. Cancer sucks. And through my very personal experience, I can tell you that going through both at the same time really sucks.
I was lucky; I was in the kind of love that people long for their whole lives. The whirlwind, swept off my feet, constant-belly-butterflies, hopeful, “so this is what love is” kind of love. The truth is, I was in it alone and I hadn’t the slightest idea.
I have always had the tendency of romanticizing things; I know this. As a believer in magic, finder of the good in people, unconditional lover and friend, and someone who understands the fact that we are all just human- I was happy in my bubble of positive naivety. I had found a handsome, charming, funny, creative, sensitive man who I thought could grow with me, teach me, adventure with me, and push the limits of my comfort zone. He was everything I knew I wanted and I had myself convinced that I meant the same to him. I suppose that I had to learn eventually that in life and love, you can't win them all. It was then that I realized, though, that I refuse to lose at both.
As I lay despondently on my hospital bed, strapped to machines of all kinds, I realized that my body was attacking itself, my life was in pieces, and my heart and mind were with him and not where they needed to be. For some time, I couldn’t seem to figure out what I was suffering more from. Was I nauseous and hurting because I had lost him and other things I so truly believed in, or was it because of the poison being pumped through my veins?
I was afraid to sleep most nights, wondering if those gorgeous green eyes of his would be the last thing I saw before I closed mine forever. I couldn’t fathom how someone who was suddenly so lost and broken could ever find the strength to fight for any of what I was supposed to be fighting for. I guess that's why when “life” happens, we tend to reflect (or in my case over-analyze) to try and find meaning or some sense of comfort in it all. We are haunted by this existential plague of needing to understand what has happened and why. It took some time and clarity, but I can accept that he was trying to do the right thing, just as the rest of us wake up and do on a daily basis. If I had to hurt for him to be truly happy, I’ll have to learn to be ok with that. If I had to fight cancer to truly find myself, my strength, and my voice, I’ll undeniably appreciate that. This experience has taught me that we can't just insert understanding in the "un-understandable". We have to accept that maybe life is just about how well we handle being suspended in a seemingly-perpetual state of “What the f*&$ is happening right now?” Above all else, we need to realize that none of us really know what the hell we’re doing.
Most importantly, I have come to terms with the fact that it isn't because of him or because of cancer that I was left with hollow uncertainty, or a deepening fear of the unknown; that’s just one of the perks of being alive. We can't live in the happiness of the past, or worry about what will or won't happen in the future. We can only be here now, enjoying each moment as we can, as they happen.
Those nights drinking microbrew beers under the stars, walks on the beach, endless smiles, laughs, music, and back rubs- I knew those moments couldn’t last forever. But that’s just it... With relationships and life, we can never know which moments will be our last. We can never know which are the moments of truth and glory or which ones will mark our defeat. These moments define us, shape us, stay with us; these moments are us. Each and every one of our lives are comprised of moments- of strength or weakness, the slight or meaningful, the fleeting or lasting…and sometimes these moments touch us differently, even when we experience them together.
I may not be the most graceful, but I’ve learned that not everything ends cleanly. Even the most fulfilling chapters of our lives don't come packaged with neat bows. We have to be ok with an abrupt black screen- no foreshadowing preludes or expected fade outs. We may not always get the closure we think that we want or need. We may not always get to say goodbye in the right ways or stick all of our landings. We certainly can't undo what’s been done, but we can sure as hell start over. Breakups are messy. Cancer is messy. Life is messy. At the end of it all, at least I can say that I tried my damnedest. I found strength and resiliency I never would have known existed. I certainly didn't let him or life go without a fight.
Have you ever dealt with a simmilar trauma at the same time as cancer? Share your story in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.
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