Saturday, March 5, 2016

When A Light Goes Out

“It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”  John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

It has been a long time again since I put words to the screen and I failed in my repeated efforts to write a post surgical update after the operation on Feb 10th. It wasn't an easy ordeal but I will save that for another day. Today is for someone else.

Yesterday, the snow fell especially hard and covered the roads, trees and houses with snow that looked just like powdered sugar. There was a real beauty about it as it crunched under my feet as I walked. It was also the day, I joined a number of other mourners to celebrate the life and the loss of a wonderful person that I had the pleasure of knowing. I am not going to pretend to say that we were the best friends because we weren't but we shared a special and unique bond of cancer and through that bond, we had an openness in the way we talked and communicated. I remember the first time we met in person and three hours flew by and we hadn't even gotten through half of what we wanted to say. It was easy and effortless because we understand each other and the struggles of this disease at a young age. And all the extra challenges that come with it. There was an unspoken understanding.

When I found out that she had lost her battle, I was in shock and it sent a jolt to my heart. The tears prickled my eyes. I immediately thought back to the fact that we had been trying to see each other over the last 4 weeks and I just didn't find a free moment after my surgery. Life got in the way as it does and now I ache at my inability to prioritise. Life waits for no one.  Last night, I read back our messages that spanned two years and thought how strange the world is that we live in. With social media, email, text messages...everyone becomes immortal. There is always a trace of their life for us to read, to see, to hear and to remember. Nothing disappears. Facebook pages become unofficial memorial pages where we write to the person as if there were still here.

I spent a lot of yesterday thinking about her. Thinking about her and her family - their pain and infinite loss that was so fresh and sharp. About the unfairness of this disease and the random way it picks its victims. When you are told you have cancer, you join this special club where you learn to live with uncertainty and an utter lack of control over your situation. At the end of the day, it comes down to sheer luck in terms of what those pesky cells decide to do. No doctor, no amount of chemo or radiation will ensure anything. And that randomness makes no sense at all and it messes with our inate human instinct to want to explain away everything. But there is no explanation for why a young mother is forced to leave her family behind? It makes no bloody sense at all! And why they had to also struggle through extraordinary amounts of pain and suffering despite being a loving and gentle soul.

When I think back to my own relapse which is now nearly 3 years ago, there was a group of women who also suffered the same fate at the same time. But today they are all also gone. Leaving behind children, husbands, mothers, fathers, questions unanswered and lives unfinished. Why? It makes me mad thinking about why someone survives and another doesn't and it is also utterly terrifying. On the other hand, it is so messed up to think that I was and am so damn lucky to be alive yet at the same so terribly unlucky for having lived through two terrible breast cancer diagnoses. It really messes with your state of mind and even brings up feelings of survivor guilt. I feel a real duty to these fallen comrades to be out their living life to the max and grabbing life by the balls. But when i look at my life, I don't feel so great. I live with chronic pain that keeps me up at night, I survive on narcotics that I have to someday ween myself off, my body is a battlefield of scars and I live in constant fear that it will all come back. It is hard to push through these challenges and go out and dance in the rain and live life as if everyday were the last. Yet I feel terrible complaining about anything because it all could have been so much worse.  How do I find the balance? How do I honour these women and the robbery of a long life they lost and still be gentle with myself?

So today, I am thinking of that new angel who got her wings and joined an elite group of pink heroes who should remind all of us that life is precious. Forget pride, forget anger, forget who's right and wrong, forget what you think you know and forget living like you have a million tomorrows. I get so angry when I see people act unkindly to one another, or stress about something that really isn't that big a deal. Is it really that important? Is it worth losing time over? I can bet you anything that that lovely woman who left this earth this week, would have given anything for another tomorrow, Let's not waste ours.

Rest in peace my friend.