I had to work a student event yesterday with several friends and colleagues. One of my colleagues (and friend), as we stood off to the side talking, commented to me that she didn’t understand how I handle everything thrown at me with a smile and positivity. I told her, “Girl, please,” with a smile and a joking tone to my voice. She doesn’t know how negative I really am, and she doesn’t believe me when I tell her if you look up pessimist in the dictionary, there will be a picture of me.
At one point last year, I was told that I can only complain so much before I become like the boy who cried wolf. People become immune, even apathetic, when all you have are complaints. I’m a negative person by nature. I’m a pessimist. I’m not even a recovering pessimist. I’m a pessimist to the core. Last night, my brother-in-law told me he never really believed in the whole “power of positive thinking” thing until recently when he decided to look for the positives, and, as he put it, now, he notices nothing but positive energy around him and his home.
Must be nice.
I’m well aware that I’m the problem in my unhappy equation. Just because I’ve made peace with the fact I have cancer and will likely die from it at some point, doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. I’ve just accepted my fate.
But, I’m not happy about it.
This morning, as I prepared to get up, get dressed, and head up to my school to work in my classroom (submitting AP Seminar work to Digital Portfolio is not fun…love the class, love seeing what my students have done…do not love the enormous extra grading load), A came in the room, sat on our bed, and asked, “What do we have to do to make it happy or relaxing or unstressful for you here at home?”
My answer was snarky, yet true: Get a DeLorean and take me back prior to cancer. I want my sense of health, well-being, and youthful immortality back. I hate who I’ve become because of cancer. I’ve tried liking her. I’ve tried understanding her. I’ve tried accepting her. I don’t like her. I don’t understand her. I don’t accept her.
She lives with the knowledge that cancer is her reality and will likely be the cause of death on her death certificate.
She lives with the knowledge that she will likely die before her children grow up, go off and make a mark in the world. She lives with the knowledge she will likely not be around to see her daughter off on her first date, to help her pick a prom dress, to see her high school graduation, to move her into college, to see her graduate college, to see her become a veterinarian, to help her pick a wedding dress, to see her make her dreams come true.
She lives with the knowledge she will likely not be around to see her son ask someone out on a first date, to help him learn to shave, to pick out his first real suit, to see him graduate high school, to move him into college, to see him graduate college, to see him become an engineer (or politician…or police officer…or cartoonist -he has many “what I want to be when I grow up” dreams), to cry when he proposes, to see him make his dreams come true.
I still struggle with the question “Why me?” I know the response is “Why any of us?” I know the answer is bad luck…bad genes…randomness. I play enough video games to know I suffer from bad RNG luck (Random Number Generator). Still, the part of me that rages against the fact I have cancer wants to know what I did that was so wrong, so bad. Some will say that means I haven’t made peace with the fact I have cancer. You’re wrong. I’ve made peace with it. I just don’t like it.
I struggle every single day, but I put forth the image that I have it together, that I’m fine, that life is grand. Life is grand, but I’m not. A quarter of cancer patients struggle with depression. Almost a quarter of cancer patients struggle with cancer-related post traumatic stress. Take someone like me who was already pessimistic before cancer and throw in cancer, cancer treatments, cancer surgeries, and continual doctor check ups, and those are the ingredients for an unhappy stew.
How selfish of me to say it, to admit it. After all, I’m still alive. I’m done with required surgeries, for now.
Friends and family are tired of my “woe is me” and “I’m so unhappy” routine, but the thing is, I hide it 9 times out of 10 because I don’t want my friends and family to be unhappy with me. I want to fix it. I want to fix me.
I’ve been told by others to fix my mindset, to start thinking positively and my negative, pessimistic thinking is a conscious choice on my part. It is. I know that. But, I also know, deep down, I’m afraid.
I’m afraid if I let go of the negative and try to be positive, the cancer will come back.
So, I struggle. I want to be happy, but I’m afraid if I choose to be happy, the cancer will come back.
A tells me all the time the cancer will come back no matter what if that’s what’s meant to happen to me. My thought is that if I rage against it, maybe that’ll keep it away. How do you rage against the dying of the light when your light is more of a dusty, after the storm, gray?
Hearing the words “You have breast cancer” wrecked me. If it can happen to me, to my friends, it can and will happen to anyone, including me. Again.
I don’t want to be wrecked again.