(Also posted at Tomas’ blog)
I read an article recently that was titled something like, “10 Things I’ve Learned From People Who’ve Had Cancer.” It was about what you’d expect: stuff like, “People who have cancer cherish every moment of every day. People who have cancer don’t mince words they tell you what they really mean. People who have cancer don’t care what other people think. People who have cancer notice that flowers smell smellier and food tastes tastier.”
I’ve decided to think of my experience with paranganglioma–since thus far mine has been/is localized–as ‘pseudo-cancer.’ I didn’t do chemo and there’s a lot of fuzziness about the benign/malignant classification in general, but it was a tumor and I will always be looking for recurrence and metastasis. Pseudo-cancer is how it feels.
So anyway. I’ve read some of these articles and I’ve heard from other survivors that I really admire and I hear this theme emerge. It’s the smellier smells, tastier tastes, more colorful colors theme.
One of the reasons I feel like I haven’t found my story is this: I haven’t had this major epiphany that other survivors have. I still spend too much time on Facebook. I still take my kids and my husband for granted too often. I still forget to stop and smell the roses.
And so I kind of feel like: What’s wrong with me?!
Why haven’t I had this experience of enlightenment? Why am I not blissed out all the time just basking in the blessings I’ve been given?
Am I the most ungrateful brat of a Pseudo-cancer survivor that anyone has ever met? Is that it?
Throughout the experience I really have tried to focus on gratitude. And my family is pretty darned important to me and while my kiddos can and do tromp all over my very last nerve on a regular basis I adore them and I’m surprised by my delight in them daily. Still, I get bogged down in the banal and frustrated with the tiny and frankly I don’t feel like I’ve had a major shift in my experience and perception of life. The changes that I sense in me aren’t nearly so inspiring and touchy-feely.
My sense from these articles and from the stories of survivors that I’ve read about though is that they keep themselves in that head-space of sweetness and ultimate perspective. I don’t feel like I’ve developed any heightened sense of that perspective and I am easily led astray into being stressed out about my dentist appointment (two fillings today… ouch!) or my lost keys or whether or not I paid the credit card bill last month.
I feel like there must be something wrong with me for not reaching this zen post-pseudo-cancer experience place of clarity.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not there yet. Maybe it comes after some of the shock and fear and the initial looking over your shoulder and just plain tiredness start to wear off. Maybe it’s part of the reality that we all ‘feel and deal’ differently. Or maybe it’s part of the overly idealized cancer survivor story culture that has been created. I’m just not sure.
I think that part of me is afraid that I’ve missed a big God message here. Was there a sign in the sky that I was missing to tell me what the positive nuggets of this experience were supposed to be and how my character and my world-view should have been transformed? Did I miss the boat? Because instead of having this new higher-level perspective I just feel more boring. I don’t laugh as easily, I’m more serious and sober. I don’t quite do ‘just having a good time’ very well anymore. I’m no Eeyore. I am still looking for the ‘gratefuls’ and holding onto faith while I “Count It All Joy,” but my happy-go-lucky got up and went elsewhere.
So… Am I missing something?
I hope that God will fill in the gaps, if the gaps do indeed exist. I hope that He will continue to help me make sense of it all as I process all this.
In the meantime, if you know the trick to making your food taste tastier and your flowers smell smellier, could you let me in on the secret password? This experience was big and hard and scary enough…. I don’t want to have to go through a hairier one to get that point!