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Drafted into the war on cancer

Cancer is war. And by war I mean: ‘months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.’

I’m borrowing the phrase, first uttered amid World War I, not to compare my queasy gut with soldiers in the trenches and front lines, but to grumble about a day on the edge of sick, restless jitters, drinking quarts of water… and not much else. I’m counting today among the months of boredom.

Don’t get me wrong: cancer is a little terrifying. But, fingers, arms, legs, toes and hair all crossed: after beginning chemo, so far so good. My fear pokes me in unexpected times and places. I get off the elevator on floor 5, and pass the sign that says “Oncology.” I hang up the phone after talking with a friend of a friend in stage 4. At some point I’ll probably be barfing my guts out; maybe I’ll feel fear along with miserable. I probably should fear all of the poisons being shot into my bloodstream and the "less common side effects" and all the "don't blame us" in the clinic release form, but I’m trying not to think about all that (yep, denial). Down the road I may be facing complications from surgery, or taking too long to recover, or getting a report of cancer’s return; then I’ll feel fear. But even more frightening than that, Trump moved today to officially pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, and that truly is a moment of terror.

So I acknowledge what I'm choosing what to focus on: here’s what I'm not afraid of:

  • My hair falling out

  • Poking myself with the needle that injects my immune system booster

  • Wobbling up the stairs, slowly

  • Losing my taste for mint chocolate chip (woah, could that really happen?)

  • Giving up my occasional dram of Scotch (temporarily)

  • My hair growing in grey and frizzy

  • Having to pee every five minutes

  • The list goes on…

These and other indignities are certain, and trivial; this is the small stuff I don’t sweat. In the meantime, I’ll choose to fight for the big stufflike the climate accords.

© 2020 Susan Cummings. All rights reserved. Originally published on [How to grow, while growing older]


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