Cancer is Crap: Postponing the Pity Party
January 15 2010, 12:51 PM
It was a long, long day at the hospital yesterday and I am totally knackered. I came home and rested a bit and then my husband and Georgia stormed the premises, but thank god Georgia’s godmother came over too, to help wrangle the Whirlwind. The Whirlwind was actually in quite the difficult mood – she was certainly not going to be nominated for any behavioural awards last night – and that’s enough to wear you out on any day, let alone one that involved seven hours at the hospital. In fact, we’re pretty sure last night put the godmother’s child-bearing plans back by at least six months…
Nonetheless we managed; we made it through dinner and bedtime without too much additional drama. Very shortly after Georgia was tucked in for the night, I too said good night and headed up to bed. As I was climbing the stairs I had one of those thoughts – the kind that have the power to bring you right down and leave you smack in the middle of darkness and devastation if you let them:
“When did this become my life? How did I get here — to this life full of cancer and exhaustion and sickness and stress — from that charmed, beautiful life full of privilege and blessings…?”
This is known as a Pity Party. Or as the start of one. It can spiral right out of control, leading to tears and trauma. Orrrr, you can snuff it out like an offensively over-scented votive candle.
It’s not that it’s not all true: I did lead an extraordinarily happy and blessed life — not one totally devoid of challenges and pain, but pretty darn good all around, pretty much right up until I got hit with the cancer stick. Yet despite appearances, I kind of think my life continues to be incredibly good. I may not be the luckiest person alive, but I have a really good life. And it turns out that some rather previously-unimaginable blessings have come from this experience of having cancer. (For more on this, you can refer to earlier posts questioning the idea of cancer as a “gift.” I’ll save you the suspense: I don’t believe for a second that cancer in itself is a gift, but it does bring with it some undeniable silver linings.)
Anyway, I had just reached the top of the stairs when another voice interrupted the Pity Party Planner’s escalating lament, “When did my beautiful life turn into this constant, unending battle…blah blah blah…” with a firm
“Well, it may not look as rose-coloured as once it did, but it is still your life. And it’s actually not a bad one. Have you seen Haiti lately? How’d you like to pull your child out of the rubble? Get a grip. You’ve got cancer and you have to live with it. Live being the operative word.”
It can be such a ball-buster, that other voice of mine. But it certainly did the trick. Snapped me right out of my downward-spiraling, woe-is-me mood. By the time I was brushing my teeth, I was thinking back at our warm, familial evening and the love and laughter that flowed so easily in and around the eddies and crests of Georgia’s hooliganism; at our delicious dinner of take-out Japanese food in our great house, and the conversations and connections on a million levels between we three old friends; even at Georgia’s absolute certainty of her rightful place at the centre of the universe. Just before switching off the bathroom light I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I had a half-smile on my face — I knew it was true:
my life is still blessed. A bit chaotic, battle-scarred, and full of dramatic ups and downs, but definitely still blessed, at least by my measure.
Pity Party postponed. That other party, the celebration? Definitely still on.