The Conundrum of Cancer: or, ruminations of the past year

A year ago, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. I’ve been trying to sail to a shore of solid ground on which to stand, yet, I am still sitting in an ocean with the emotions and feelings of diagnosis, surgery and prognosis. Or rather, I am finally learning how to lean into them. 

If seen on the street by a stranger, that person wouldn’t know what ails me. Most people who know me don’t know, either. There is hair on my head, flab and rolls on my body, color in my cheeks, and I’m still alive. It’s easy for others to forget. For me, the reminder of my condition comes with every breath.

From the outside, there are no discernible changes, other than a weight-gain that will take a year or two to lose. I have the same job, live at the same location and have the same friends. I do have a new car, but that was inevitable as the Saturn has over three hundred thousand miles on it and was becoming unreliable. I guess that means I, too, have over three hundred thousand miles, and maybe I am equally questionable. There IS a fog that has come with menopause that is more noticeable to me than anyone else. At least, that is my hope.

Planning for the future has mostly stopped. Leaving Sonoma County and California are no longer considerations. Nor is finding a job outside of my current organization. Medical insurance has become precious—perhaps too precious, but I’m not willing to let go of that ever-binding ring of security. My writing feels solid… or at least, the practice seems so. My priorities are creativity, health, and loved ones. Travel, if it’s affordable and manageable. I go to work, run errands, exercise when I can. There is a simplicity to my life that creates a path to my center.

Still, there is an indescribable unease. Unheimlich, but not uncanny—English doesn’t have a true word. Am I serving the world by sitting on a boat in the middle of the sea? Am I serving myself? I am writing and that is my calling… is that enough? Or is that the problem? I have been anchored for too long with being too much or not enough. Neither are relevant, but they act as phantom limbs, mooring me. I know this tension will go away, but there is a fine balance to being at home with oneself, and it’s easy to capsize.

A friend and I were talking about feelings the other day. She asked if my life was creating joy and peace. I had to pause and consider the question. I don’t strive for joy and peace. Or bliss. Or happiness. They are no longer considerations. I strive to make my body healthy, and to put words together that sound good and convey meaning on a page. To eat well, exercise, go to work, and add value to my world. But I don’t aim for particular feelings. Sorrow lives in my chest, waiting for test results cause my lungs to catch and hold, a full moon lights my entire body, writing satisfies my fingers and soul. Loving and missing my daughter sometimes breaks my heart with their weight. Sitting on a boat in the middle of the ocean has given me time to be—with everything. There is no need to create circumstances—feelings and emotions are already there in being alive.

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