I’m not a hero. At least, I don’t want to be. So why am I trying so hard to look like one?
Life has taken me on a few crazy roads this past month with both my personal life and my health. It’s been difficult, exhausting, painful and a real drag. Cancer continues to be an unwanted pest tapping at my back door and let’s just say I’m getting on with it, but there are days it seems really unfair and extremely inconvenient. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. Listen, I’d much rather be with my kids or out hunting for antiques or doing a million other things. And yet, every week, I take my marching orders and to the oncologist’s office I go…. I take the drugs, I get the shots, I get my blood drawn, I try to have a sense of humor, and on some days I succeed. And on some days, I really don’t.
My doctor yelled at me a few weeks ago. I’m not kidding. Really laid into me. Why? Well, I have rescheduled a few treatments, and yes, sometimes I fudge being where I’m supposed to be on the exact day I should be there, but come on! What’s a few days here and there? He said it was a big deal, and I couldn’t believe it:
“You’re not taking your health seriously.”
Huh? You ever see a porcupine bristle? Well, that was my reaction. Pure indignation. What is he TALKING about? How could he SAY such a thing? I alternated between tears and anger. How could anyone, especially my doctor, who knows my family is my LIFE, think that I Jennifer, Super-Mom, Super-Wife, Super-Actress, Super-Career-Woman, how could he even SUGGEST that I don’t take my health seriously?
Well, it took a few hours for me to calm down and figure out what he was really trying to tell me. You see, cancer is easier to cope with when you are sick, and there have been times when I have been very, very sick. When your hair is falling out and you can’t get up and your eyelashes and eyebrows are gone, you look in the mirror and a sick person stares back at you. It’s hard to argue with what’s looking you right in the eye. So you lay low, often not by choice, but because you just can’t even muster up the energy to go anywhere. But then if you’re lucky, at some point you find your way out of the woods, and as the months go on, you start to feel normal, like a cancer-free person….except when you live with Stage 4 cancer, the word free isn’t exactly part of your daily vocabulary. And it’s not that you take your health for granted, it’s just that you don’t feel sick, so how serious are you supposed to be?
When I look in the mirror, I see a healthy, vibrant woman staring back at me. She doesn’t look sick. And I’m very busy. I’ve got three kids. I’ve got a voice-over career, I’ve got an antique show, I’ve got to get to the market, the mall, the school, the dry cleaner. I just don’t have TIME for all of this cancer nonsense.
Well…. that’s not how it always goes. I am, whether I like it or not, an occasional prisoner to cancer. It has happened before, it will happen again, and it’s happening now. There are times when I just have to suck it up. I’ve had a lot of time to ponder what that means, to suck it up. Does that mean I should give up my life and who I am, and all of the things I enjoy? No. What I think it means, is that I don’t need to try to be the hero all the time. It’s okay to be weak, it’s okay to be sad. Hell, it’s okay to be scared. Sometimes I think I do too much because to admit I feel tired or absolutely terrified of cancer is often a little more than I can deal with.
I think all of this so-called strength actually makes my husband a nervous wreck. I keep on thinking that if I just keep on going, eventually he’ll stop worrying about me. And then I sometimes think that if I try hard enough, I can actually make him completely forget that he has a wife with cancer. But I can’t do that either. I do have cancer, and it must be really hard for him. Who wants a sick wife, even if that wife is me?
I’m pretty sure he does. In fact, I’m betting on it.
And I don’t see my kids looking to trade me in for a newer, better model. My daughters have seen me naked, they see how cancer has claimed my breast. They see the scars on my chest. I don’t hear anyone complaining. In fact, my older daughter called me brave once. I think maybe being brave is a good thing. I think maybe it’s even better than being a hero.
Maybe sometimes, we need to stop running from ourselves and not be so afraid for people to see us for who we really are. Flawed, tired, scared, angry, sad….maybe it’s okay sometimes to stay home and watch the sky and look in the mirror and be okay with whatever reflects back at us.
I think maybe I’m going to do that right now….and then, I’m going antiquing.