August 2017

Fear and Loathing in Allergy Season

The incorrigible villain known as pollen is once again plundering my lungs of breath, scorching my throat, and welcoming me into its lukewarm arms with dual ear infections. Post-cancer, I’ve had a difficult time finding antibiotics and medicines that respond to my body in a satisfactory way. My immune system is now an extremely callous, obstinate version of what it used to be. In some ways this is good—I generally am sick less often—but when germs and infection do invade, they tend to have a competitive advantage. Chemo changes the body considerably; I never used to have any allergies and now I’m allergic to numerous things including pollen and most of the human race. Cancer hollowed out my old body and refilled it with new contents.

Human nature encourages us to act bitter to these misgivings in life, but what if we decided to embrace the terrible things that have happened to us? Is it wrong to celebrate my sickness as I sit here freezing in two sweatshirts with tissues and various bottles of antibiotics and pills in front of me? I rejoice in these reminders that my health is not guaranteed, because it means I’m alive. Cancer taught me to appreciate the best and the worst of life; the worst sometimes being the more valuable experience.

After cancer, one battle ends and a new war starts. We’ve been dragged and burned through a nuclear war zone and then thrown back onto our trembling legs and told to run back into the world’s unfamiliar embrace. We stumble to recognize this new world we live in, where fear and worry are trivial words for which we no longer recognize their express meaning because they are now intrinsic to our character. We are made of fear, but we’ve internalized it so we can control its power within our conscious and rearrange where it dwells. We conquer fear and vanquish it to the attic in our minds until a small beam of sunlight illuminates its silhouette and exposes the curled up corners of a chilling satisfied smile veiled in the shadows. But we grin back, because when you’ve seen that menacing face, you’re no longer controlled by it. We control the beast. It no longer dictates us; we are free because death does not frighten us.

New beasts may inhabit the darkness: anxiety, depression, hopelessness; but their power is limited to the shackles we place on them. They are defeated in the acknowledgement of them and the ability to govern their size and influence. The moment you stop fearing death is when you can live unadulterated in your lust for life and be present to every raw emotion that unearths from the shadows.

That is where you find the confidence to finally write your own destiny.

This is where you learn to embrace your new post-cancer body and unlock the healing power contained within your mind. It’s how you learn to be the most enthusiastic girl in the world with a recurrent double ear infection and a throat that feels like I’ve swallowed a fucking razorblade.

So feed the beasts you want to grow: confidence, happiness, appreciation, love; in turn, this will starve the ones you wish to die.