What Have You Been Up To This Summer? Mostly watching my friends die.
I've been fortunate enough to be able to take time off of work to visit friends and catch up on each others lives. This has been great, and quite healing, but with each encounter, the obvious question comes up: What have I been doing this Summer?
The answer is bleak. I've been watching my friends die. Friends I have made and become close with online, ones I have met through in person support groups, and some who I knew in both ways. We have been hit with a big onslaught of people passing away. People who have the same cancer I have. People who were beautiful, amazing souls. Positive people. They thought great thoughts (I don't mean MAGA GREAT; I mean treating people with love great.) They were not negative like I am so often accused of being. Many prayed. They did clinical trials. They juiced. They meditated. They are dead.
I do know some people survive this. I do have hope. Ive seen people (far less than those who die) be cured by miracle drugs in development. I'm tired of people telling me I just need to have hope. Tell that to my hopeful, dead friends. Also, what part of me doing chemotherapy over 50 times leads you to believe I don't have hope? I would not endure the pain, fatigue, loss of self and financial strain I have been though over the last nearly 3 years if hope weren't driving me. Something I heard Katie Couric say at a lecture recently, sharing her own experience of losing her husband to colon cancer, was that they had too much hope. It blinded the reality of the situation, and they didn't have the conversations she wish they had before he passed away. This has made me more cognizant of balancing hope with practicality, and might be what has been causing me to exhibit behavior that some of you write to me about saying I need to have hope. Trust, I have it.
Something that confounds the shitty-ness of watching people die, is the guilt that comes along. I mourn the loss of my friends, but I also feel guilty. Why is my alleged negative, rude ass surviving still? Oh here is another kind of guilt: their deaths make me scared for me. I am that piece of shit who loses a friend and goes home to worry about when it is going to happen to me. It is pretty weird- watching them go the way I likely will. Slow liver failure, collapsing lungs, strokes from brain mets. It is terrifying. I wish I could pause that and grieve my losses, but it all gets blurry. It makes me feel insane. Even the slightest insult lately really hurts me. I'm usually quite thick skinned, but comments lately really sting, and it shows me that I'm not in a good place emotionally.
I stay up late at night reading my dead friend's blogs. Sometimes, because I fucking miss them so much. Other times, it is self serving and I'm trying to figure out when they realized they were dying. Reading those experiences is so helpful to me. Today, many of my suspicions were confirmed, and I learned my current chemotherapy regimen is not working anymore. It is a new crossroads. I have options, but these changes are scary. I'm glad I have my memories of my dead friends, and their wisdom, guidance and genuine care for others to help me through this new time of decisions. I want all of you who share these experiences openly to know you are really helping people like me. I hope I am doing the same for some earlier in the "journey" we call cancer. And, I will NEVER shame you for being realistic by calling you negative.
I'm off to take my chemo pills and wash them down with a huge glass of realism AND hope. Night night!