Sometimes I imagine you as an animated character, like the chef in the Little Mermaid, the one that chases Sebastian the crab everywhere, wanting to boil him alive. You’re unrelenting, like that chef, and you keep coming and coming.
It’s not fair. And what’s more, you keep wanting to boil CHILDREN, not crabs. You know what I think? I think you lose either way. If the patient dies, you die too. And if the patient lives, well, you lose again. So really, why do you even bother? All you do is make people stronger. And we’re getting closer. We’re getting closer to figuring you out. And I think you know it. That’s why you keep upping the stakes, isn’t it?
I am not even upset anymore that you existed within me and that you basically took everything but my life. I held on by a thread, and slowly but surely, I keep discovering that there is more to that thread than I thought. I am more than a survivor, don’t you know? I don’t really like that word. I was so young when you came into my life, and so young still when you left. It’s like I really had nothing to do with my own survival, but what I am responsible for is now. I’m here, in spite of you. You tried to take me down, and you failed. What I am doing is thriving. And what I’m also doing is fighting back. I’m a voice in the pitch black, and whereas I don’t always sound loud and clear like I do on paper or on social media, I know what I’m fighting for.
I am fighting you still because I hated growing up in this body that I considered to be broken. I’ve come to realize I’m not broken at all, but I am strong in the places other people can’t be. I’m fighting you still because I can’t stand that you take and take and take. Selfish cancer.
But did you know that in all that taking, you are also giving? You give strangers a reason to be friends, a reason to love each other. You give hope a face and a name and a body. You give reason why there are several hundred thousand (or even billions) of prayers being said. You may invade the body, the brain, or blood stream, but that’s as far as you can go. You can’t touch our souls.
I have no memory of you, but I see you every time I look in the mirror. I’m what determination looks like. I’m what refusing to give up looks like, though there have been times when I wanted to just let go. Life’s hard. The memories of my childhood are full of tears because I didn’t understand how you could do this to me, change me so much, when I don’t even remember having you. And I hope, I’m what love looks like, in one of its rawest, most vulnerable forms.
I am constantly searching, for things that make sense, for answers, for places I belong. And I’ve come to realize that I belong here, fighting this fight. So thank you, cancer. Thank you for helping me find myself. I will forever wish that you didn’t exist, that I, and all of my friends who I have met and come to love as family, were untouched by you. But now that I’m older and somewhat wiser, I’ve come to realize that I wouldn’t be who I am today without your hovering presence.
I see you, even now, you mad chef you. And you’re going down one way or another. Cancer in a straitjacket, anyone?
Hey, imagination is free!
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.