I usually like to keep a bit of time and distance between me and the stories I tell. Sometimes years like I have with the Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. With others, it’s weeks or months like this blog about me and E and the Big C. This is the psychological and emotional space I need to tell a good story. It’s the way I work.
Time allows me to separate myself from the story so that it doesn’t erode into sentimental sop. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good tear jerker. I just don’t intentionally write one. I’m not here to emotionally manipulate. It is my desire to share what I know, what I’ve learned on this journey. At best, it may only be an enjoyable read. At worst, a waste of time. But if it informs and illuminates, touches a heartstring, resonates with some truth you hold dear, then I’ve accomplished more than I could have hoped for.
My story is your story. We’re all in this together after all. You may not have cancer, nor be married to someone with it. You may be lucky and this disease hasn’t touched your life in any way. But I doubt it. That’s not the point. This isn’t about the disease, you see. It’s about two people and their family and friends and community. It’s about you and me. All of us.
Oh yes it is my dear ones.
Because we’re all human and this is a very human story. Not a tragedy. Although sometimes it is heartbreaking. It is often fraught with folly. And great big belly laughs. Tears are shed. Curse words are spat like mouldy grapes. But there’s a whole lot of loving going on too.
So today, Saturday, April 6, exactly four months after my world was rocked I am going to do something I typically don’t do with my storytelling. I’m telling you how it is now. On this day. No time. No distance. No space between me and the story.
This morning E and I were in the kitchen making coffee and chatting idly about the things we had to do today. For reasons I’m not even certain of – maybe I was born with it or maybe it’s Maybelline – I turned to him and said the following:
“I know nothing can compare to the way you feel. Part of me can’t even imagine. But I just want you to know that for the people closest to you. It feels horrible. Awful. Everyone expects you to feel like crap. You’ve got cancer for Christ sakes. But I feel like crap too. I’m worried and exhausted. I’m so depressed.”
E slumped in the chair and said, “I’m worried too. I wake up at three in the morning and I can’t sleep.”
“Neither can I,” I snapped.
But what I wanted to say and couldn’t because he’s the one with cancer and that trumps everything: “You just don’t get it. Yes, you have the disease, but you don’t have a monopoly on feeling bad.”
“I’m depressed,” he sighed.
“Some days I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails.”
And that was the end of the conversation. Maybe hanging on by your fingernails trumps everything.
There you have it. Four months in and the truth is, we both feel like crap. Not all the time. The mornings are the worst. Fortunately life distracts us. We carry on. Get on with it. Try not to wallow. Nor allow this thing to swallow us whole like a snake eating a rabbit. Take the best part of us. We ‘do not go gentle into that good night.’
This afternoon we took our dogs for a walk around the lake. It was good. As we walked the trail, I breathed in the beauty of the world surrounding us. The trees were green with newness. Life was exerting itself everywhere. Hope filled the clouds above. The breeze whispered sweet nothings in our ears. You have today, it said.
There wasn’t a trace of cancer anywhere.