My son and I have an odd sense of humor. We find it hilarious to give human emotions to animals and try to draw what these creatures might look like. Well, my son draws them because I am drawing impaired. For example, one of our favorites is anxious tortoise. He flails about upside down on his shell waving all four wrinkly feet in the air, furiously trying to turn himself back over. His cheeks are bright red and he has a seriously pissed look on his face. When one of us has had a particularly trying day, the other will mimic anxious tortoise from across the dining table. It always makes us smile. Yes, we’re strange and we have way too much time on our hands.
This is where angry cancer elephant comes in. I’ve done a lot of thinking and even more reading these past few months since being diagnosed. I’ve read about what I should be eating, what kind of exercise I should be doing, which supplements might help with chemo side effects and which might prevent recurrence. Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle. Cancer is part genetic and the rest is up to you. What you don’t read much about is the degree to which your mind controls your health. If you think that cancer will kill you, it will. If you think that you have six months to live, you do. This is why I think that it’s a death sentence when the doctor spouts off some arbitrary timeline to a gravely ill person. Most people aren’t strong enough to overcome the loss of hope that accompanies, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do. You have six months, maybe a year.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about what really might have caused my breast cancer. Certainly genetics was not in my favor as this runs on both sides of my family, but I know in my heart that there’s more to it than that. I was living a pretty healthy lifestyle at diagnosis, so I really don’t think that the one spoon of sugar in my daily coffee sent my cells over the edge. No, my problem is that I am an internalizer. I intensely dislike wearing my emotions on my sleeve, so I tend to be a bit stoic. I don’t know how to really feel things in the moment and just let the feelings wash over me. So they get stuffed down, layer upon layer, cloaked in comedy, silently wreaking havoc on my biochemistry.
I’ve spent at least the past twenty-five years pleasing people, not rocking the boat, being a good girl, and doing “what’s best”. Best for whom? Certainly not the soul that’s screaming to be heard. Not the inner child who just wants to play and not keep one eye over her shoulder to make sure that she’s not disappointing anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it all with a big helping of smartass and several rebellious mini streaks. But essentially, I’m afraid. Afraid of making a bad decision. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of ruining other people’s lives. Fear is the elephant in the room that has controlled my life, and I’m angry that I’ve allowed it to go on for so long. Because where there is fear, there can be no true joy. And I am sorely overdue for a long spell of unabashed happiness.
Maybe this is the purpose of angry cancer elephant, to show me what is missing in my life and give me the chance to fix it before I’m too old. I did something today that I rarely do. I cried for myself and allowed myself to feel, if only for a moment, the reality of my situation and the weight that is squarely upon my shoulders. Then I pulled up my big girl panties and got on with the day. But I vowed to myself that I will find a way to stop simply existing and start living. Sorry angry cancer elephant, you’re gonna have to move on.