The funniest thing about being a cancer survivor is my warrior status. 96.4 lbs. 5'2. Warrior. At 34, my crowning achievement has been achieving this bad-ass status. I'm proud of it. I am a serious ninja, and you know it. I troll through the effervescent streets of Manhattan Beach as though I am just another human. But I feel the eyes upon me.
My friend, Anna, was diagnosed with a terrible tendonitis in her knee. She mentioned it casually at a cowboy-themed kid's party. Anna stopped herself mid-sentence, looked straight into my wide eyes, and muttered, "It's not so bad" and, of course, "Nothing compared to what you've been through." That's right, Anna. Suck it up I have no sympathy for the writhing pain in your knee, and you know better than to complain to me.
This situation replays itself so often. "Nothing compares to what you've been through"is the favorite line. These days, my friends rarely share their physical pain with me. And when they do, it is always downplayed as if their pain is not real enough for me. Every time this happens, it reminds me of this new identity I have. Patient. Cancer survivor. In that brief moment, I find myself mourning a little bit the loss of the care-free wistful girl I used to be.
As a cancer-survivor, I suppose what I aspire to be most is just normal. I reminisce about the flowy-haired version of myself and the moment when my biggest woe was missing an episode of Lost. I celebrate this new version of myself, a little broken, but actually not so bad. And I try daily to replace the weight of the last chapter with the strength of this one. I am blessed, and I know it.
I hope all of you out there will follow the lead of my son and husband who so candidly share their daily woes with me. Imagine this: Matt turns abruptly to me in a parking lot in front of Trader Joe's, "Babe, look at this. Oh my God! It hurts so, so much." I glance over at his tortured brown eyes and then down at his hand, "Matthew," I say, "Is that a hang-nail? Did you really just say that out loud to me?"
And there is joy and laughter in the world.
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