This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the well wishes and encouragement, but I have to be honest about something. I don’t consider myself strong or ready to handle this next step with the typical inspiring cancer patient attitude. I don’t really face challenges head on. I’m more of a put my head down and push through it type of person. Armor up and take the hits. Grin and bear it. Roll with the punches. Those tend to be my attitudes towards life’s lemons. The optimistic: “I’m going to fight! I’m not going to let this get me down! I’m grateful for every moment I get!” Those don’t resonate with me. I feel more fragile than strong, especially in that “life is fragile” kind of way.

I’ve always thought life is too short. I’ve been acutely aware of the eternal perspective. That life is but a blip on the eternal timeline. I can’t say that has ever brought me comfort. One of my anxieties, probably since I was 16, was already about getting to that elder age and knowing I wasn’t long for the world. When I turned 40, I had to remind myself that I still likely had just about as much time left as I had already lived.

I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. While I know it was never a definite, anything can happen…I guess anything did happen. My current prognosis is not at all in the mindset of I have x amount of years left. There are statistics about recurrence and overall survival that I could get caught up in, but I’m choosing to have seen them but not seal them to memory or connect them to my fate. Yet, I do think there is a reality that my relationship to the “average lifespan” has been impacted. I can easily spiral into wondering, if it is shortened, “5, 10, 20yrs? What feels reasonable.? What feels like enough? Will I come to a time when it won’t feel like I’m being cheated out of life experiences I had hoped for?” There’s always one more milestone I can think of that I’d love to enjoy. However, the spiral doesn’t take me to a “why me?” perspective.

What it does spiral into is: “If I can’t get myself into that positive mindset, then I’m sabotaging my chances of longevity.” I mean we all hear about how a positive attitude is the best thing to get you through illness. What if I’m not a positive attitude type of person? What is a positive attitude? I’m such a realist that I tend to see people with their rosy perspectives and think, “How?” That’s not to say I can’t be grateful for the little things or for the larger things. It is to say that I see the world we are living in with all of the shit that’s going down, and it’s quite difficult for me to put on a hopeful, happy face. Sure, maybe the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but, well, I’m thinking I may not get to see that trajectory in my lifetime. My understanding of history and social progress is that it is more like a pendulum, and I’m not quite sure if the swing back towards justice is going to happen during my blip on the eternal timeline.

Bringing it back into focus on my life, in my smaller community, there is not much to complain about. Sure I have cancer. I have cancer as someone living in a time of peace in our country (or relative peace, let’s say). I have cancer in the U.S., as a white woman with access to top-notch healthcare and great insurance. I have cancer as someone with financial stability. I have cancer as someone with family and friends that love her, with an amazing husband, and incredible children. Of course I wish that my family lived closer and that I didn’t have to feel like a burden during this time. But if pain from surgery, side effects from chemo, and needing to accept help from people who are excited to offer it is my struggle, then no, I don’t really consider myself strong.