ABC’s of Cancer
May 19, 2015
By: Rania Abdul-Rahim
There’s so much to say about cancer. Sigh, shrug, throw hands up in the air, roll eyes, look down – and back up, deep breath, roll shoulders back and down, straighten back, look ahead with reassuring, smiling eyes … I haven’t said a word about it yet, but I sense you heard me. I can’t find the right words, but I know we all know this place. Other people’s words helped me through, so I decided one day, I would blog. I hope my words strung together bring some light, and love, to someone or more today. I will start with the basics: the ABC’S. These are the three stages, as I experienced them, from diagnosis, through treatment, to survivorship. I’ve thought about what I’d name these stages, and after a few attempts, where the words sounded too serious or silly; I settled on these combo’s, that cover both, and ring true to me. Go ahead and read on, A: Adapting and Aaaaaaaaaaah! B: Being – but, but, but, and C: Continuing … Crap!
Adapting is the first phase. This is somewhere between symptoms, or their absence, and medical tests, more tests, waiting … shuffling fears and scheduled activities, to fit in appointments, and rummage through best case, and worst case possibilities. Here, rational-me is adapting, and getting really organized and functional; I’ve got lists and notes and questions. I’ve got this. Emotionally? Rollercoaster ride galore! Deep inside, or right in your face & everyone else’s, I’m screaming out Aaaaaaaaaaaaah! Adapting takes over though, because survival mode’s kicked in … Thank you, dear magical mode!
Being, this is the 2nd phase. Existential questions are popping up. I’m trying to find meaning, rhyme and reason. Getting through the treatments is happening somehow. I’m not too sure how, and know its best to leave that alone; trust the process, let go. But, at what cost? How many scary illnesses down the line did I just subscribe to? But, wait, I should be thankful, I was diagnosed in time! But how would this have been handled in a tribe in Africa? Would a shaman have healed me? IV-free? But, in Mexico oxygen’s the way to go! But I could juice my way to health in sunny California! But, but, but … Breathe, focus on being, alive, moment-to-moment. Be, here, now, to get through it, to get through getting sicker to get better. But, no, be.
Continuing, that’s the 3rd stage. Treatments are done, and it’s time to get on with life. Celebrate, and be proud of myself, and everyone who supported me, in any way, big or small. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Biggest party ever!! Except … Crap! (Calice! For my Francophone friends). I feel like crap! Where am I? What just happened? Survival mode’s done, isn’t it? Party’s over? That ride was the party!? No! Crap! This is the worst hangover I’ve never had. I have expectations, to give back, and fundraise, and be on that dragon boat, and I do, somehow! I also quit my job! That’s so out-of-character for me, I’m not sure who I am anymore; but I smile. I know I’m exhausted, and vulnerable, and reeling. The side effects are all here, messing with me; but the shift in my priorities is so-clear: there’s no turning back. It’s not you, it’s me. Head rush! Am I free falling? “New normal”, that’s the only answer I get. No, this is not normal, slapping on the word new, is a cancer-world-lingo fail. Crap! It should’ve been called “definitely different”, with a fancy scale that goes from ‘devastatingly’ to ‘divinely’, depending on the day.
Ah, but, crap! Adapt, be, and continue. I’m here, one day at a time. These words I came across, anchor me in space, “What if I fall? Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”
I update my ABC’s of cancer: Advocate, Breathe and Create.