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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-04-21 09:25
Subject: [cancer] The Fear pays me a visit
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, personal, travel
Settling in on the plane, I made a casual joke to my seatmate about how any day you wake up above ground with no bars on the window is a good day. (No, it's not that funny, but it had context in our brief conversation.) That bit of silliness opened the door to the Fear.

The Fear is never too far from the place behind my eyes where the "I" lives. Legacy of the cancer, for me, of course. I never had it before getting sick last year. Though there are certainly other kinds of fear, this one is my own special brand. My digestion has never been quite the same since the cancer, so even without wisecracks or occasionally noticing my surgery scars in the bathroom mirror, I have an everpresent reminder.

Now, of course, the anniversary of the cancer approaches. I've never been big on special dates. Probably legacy of the moveable feast that was my birthday in childhood. We moved every year or two — the longest we stayed in one place was three years, once — and always right at the end of the school year, where my birthday falls. Even on years we didn't move, we tended to take family vacation or home leave right then. My birthday was celebrated far more often at random times than ever it was on the date of my natal anniversary, often more than once.

So it is with the cancer. No one knows when it first began. I don't have April 29th circled on the calendar to mark its visible onset in my life via ER ambush. In fact, that's a date I have to look up. May 9th, the date of my surgery, is engraved in my consciousness, perhaps because I approached that event with malice aforethought and much worry.

A cancer season has been added to the calendar of my life. Right now and for the next few weeks to come the wind blows out of the sign of the crab. My scar aches in my mind, even when the seam in my body is quiet. We will celebrate this season, my body and I, with observances of the Fear, bouts of unpleasant memory, a continual carrier wave of gratitude, and (on May 14th and 15th) medical tests to ferret out any evidence that my most intimate enemy has not yet left the stage.

Afterwards, there will be a party with my family, a few close friends, and calendula_witch. A way to banish the Fear until the next cancer season. Or, if the worst happens during the tests, a way to celebrate a new cancer season, and launch me on the path of its defeat.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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Rhonda Parrish
User: rhondaparrish
Date: 2009-04-21 17:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I want to say something...but I'm at a loss for words.

I listened though, and I feel for you. So very much.

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User: jess_ka
Date: 2009-04-21 18:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hugs, Jay.
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User: goulo
Date: 2009-04-21 20:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
With all due respect to The Fear, I have a strong feeling that your unusually constructive and positive spirit will successfully keep The Fear under control... Much respect to you! (And you know, not just about the cancer.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-04-22 03:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you.
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User: bram452
Date: 2009-04-21 21:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hey, you ever read Bo Lozoff? I usually detest self-help types, but he's . . . different. And there's some stuff he says about keeping a focus on your mortality and vulnerability that chimes off your Fear posts in interestin' ways.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-04-22 02:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am learning a lot from this, yes. Thank you for the suggestion.
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Matthew S. Rotundo: Radioactive
User: matthewsrotundo
Date: 2009-04-21 23:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have a feeling that, like birthdays as one ages, the anniversary of the Fear will grow less and less significant with time.
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User: suelder
Date: 2009-04-21 23:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nineteen years ago, I was in a car accident. I survived, had a (very slight) ovarian cancer scare and missed spring. I completely missed spring. For years afterward, my "car accident season" was spring. I loved spring and reveled in it.

But every year, the memories, the terrible thought that this might be my last spring faded.

It's nineteen years later and it took your post to remind me that this is "car accident season". It gets better, the fear gets farther away but it doesn't completely flee. But that's okay, too.

Huggs and be well.
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User: fledgist
Date: 2009-04-21 23:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Every day is a victory.
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User: alasdair1076
Date: 2009-04-22 21:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Late last year, my mum began getting kidney pains. Nothing major we were told, probably kidney stones. It built over time and by the time Christmas came she was in too much pain to move much. A scan was scheduled and, due to an administrative error she missed it. By two months. When she got it, we were told it was kidney stones and she'd be fine.

Then we were told it was lymphoma.

It took six weeks and two biopsies to get that confirmed and during that time the lives of my entire family ground to a shuddering halt. Every single thing became loaded with meaning, every conversation was over shadowed by not just the cancer but by the possibility that there was a finite amount of those conversations left to have and on top of that, the possibility that if the news was bad, we'd spend the rest of her life wondering if the scan landing sooner would have changed that.

She's got an absolutely off the shelf, bog standard lymphoma. Her prognosis is very good and one bout of the chemo in she seems to be responding very, very well.

And The Fear's still there, for all of us. It's lessened, sure, but it colours everything. Soon that colour will fade but right now, it's still there.

You're tackling this the only way you can, head on. You face the Fear down, you stare it in its eyes every single day and even if it doesn't elssen it becomes easier to manage. The honesty and eloquence with which you talk about that isn't just helping you, it's helping people like me and that's something I can't thank you enough for.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-04-23 10:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are most welcome. This is why I talk about it, in hopes that it will ease others' journeys.
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