My cancer emotions run a pretty wide gaumut through the obvious. Anger, depression, grief and so forth. In truth, those three haven’t been so bad lately. But the two I wrestle most with in a different sense are a sense of unfairness and a sense of despair.
Unfairness is the only emotion I don’t give credit to. I can see the reasons for all the other emotions that hit me, the needs they express and the psychotoxins that they are drains for. Unfairness, though, feels mostly like whining to me. That’s true even when it’s only happening in my own head.
I think it’s because at an intuitive level, the emotion feels deeply counterproductive. Also, experiencing a sense of unfairness isn’t me interacting with the universe at large, it’s me interacting with myself. The universe is mechanistic, without purpose in the human sense. There is no rule of fairness to be violated. That I have already paid great physical, financial and emotional costs for a completely preventable series of cancers that normally arrive 20+ years later than they did for me is terrible, and it’s too bad for me. But that’s not unfairness, because there was no fairness guarantee in the first place.
As for despair, that’s been the tough one lately. It’s really another facet of depression, I suppose, but my tools here are weaker than they are when facing the black dog head on. Last night I spent quite a bit of time awake in bed going over the financial situation (bad but not yet dire), my love life (satisfying but with that aching core emptiness I’ve had all this year, and serious doubts about my future), my sense of futurity (limited and fearful), and my sense of mortality (looming hard). I was just generally despairing over all those.
I think the problem I have with despair is twofold. One, it is slippery. I know how to get my hands on anger, depression and grief. Those are dark angels with whom I can wrestle. Despair is more of a knife in the back. I rarely see it coming, and I don’t know how to grab the handle and pull when it does.
The other is that it’s linked pretty clearly to my medication cycle. I think Zyprexa makes it worse, but in general chemo wears me down emotionally and mentally. This past weekend was my 19th chemotherapy session 19 months (coincidentally enough). FOLFIRI, which is what I’m on now, doesn’t impair me cognitively as much as does FOLFOX, last year’s chemo regimen, but it does overwhelm me more physically. Somehow that physical drop ties into despair.
I’ve said before that cancer is a social disease. It affects the patient and everyone around them. It’s also an emotional disease, like all chronic illnesses must be. I have friends, family, loved ones, a good therapist, good physicians and nurses. I am taking care of myself. But at the bottom, it is still me making this journey alone into a darkness that I sometimes have trouble seeing anything at the other end of.