Two years apart.
Same Lululemon hoodie; different body and soul occupying it.
I’m not here to bullshit with all the champions who are going through chemo right now and tell you “everything will be ok!” because we all know that’s not always true. And in those daunting hours, days, months of treatment we often can’t see the light because we’re literally confined indoors to our homes and hospitals under the stale fluorescence of fake lighting and saccharin enthusiasm.
I found my light by observing others who had walked the path before me. They have hair! They are going on vacations! They have cleavage! I was bald and puffy. I felt left behind and sorry for myself. But I saw my future in the other cancer survivors who were years ahead of me in remission. I realized that my new normal—crushing exhaustion as I would draw on my eyebrows every morning and glue on fake eyelashes just so I could look halfway decent and avoid sneers and stares if I even dared to venture into the outside world–would not be my forever normal.
So, to the girl on the left, I’d like you to meet the girl on the right. She is one of those future cancer survivors that you’re going to enviously admire. Let her be a testimony to all of the doubts and insecurities you’re feeling right now. Let her show you how life can be normal again. Although you feel small and helpless now, she is evidence that miracles are being planted in the ashes that surround you, and they will grow into oak trees with roots so deep they do not fear the changing seasons.
She is proof that –although you cannot see the plan God has for you—you are right on track.
To the girl on the left: I know you nearly had a panic attack before you posted that picture of yourself bald on social media. You were flustered and frightened by what the response would be because you cared what other people thought. And you will be criticized but not in a way you are prepared for. You will be judged for wearing wigs to “hide” your cancer. You will be condemned for saying the word “fuck” in your blog. You will be chastised for posting photos of your mastectomy scar and surgeries. You will get fusilladed by a sea of eye-rolls as you perpetually forget important dates and can’t even recall what you said in a conversation two hours ago.
The girl on the right is proof that as time passes and people pass judgement, you’ll learn to care a little less about those things. She is proof that you can and should do whatever the hell makes you happy because by the time you’ve caught up to the girl on the right, you’ll have earned every ounce of that happiness.
She is proof that one day you’ll become a stranger in the oncology department which now seems so familiar and where everybody knows your name. She is proof that there will be weeks that go by before the word “cancer” is spoken. And when it is, that word will slip from your mouth like a vase full of flowers tumbling to their demise while you flinch at the piercing explosion on the cold marble floor. It will rattle you. But also remember that the girl on the right is a fucking badass so she asks someone to grab a broom and everybody laughs because she says “I hated that ugly vase anyways.”
She is proof that as your life changes, you will learn more about yourself than you could ever imagine.
She is proof that you are not alone in your fight. Stay strong, whatever you’re going through now is just the test before you learn the lesson.