And there are those who are reading this thinking about my incessant need to talk about this and what that means about my self-esteem. (SPOILER ALERT: My self-esteem isn’t in the greatest shape. Even more reason for me NOT to be writing shit like this and exposing myself to you questioning my self-esteem.)
Believe it or not, I don’t care if anyone is reading this. I’ve found writing about this incredibly therapeutic. It’s provided me with a much-needed release. That said, it feels so great when people feel connected to you or your journey. It makes this whole thing feel a little less pointless.
But anyway, this post is actually less about ‘The Cancer’ and more about identity.
Who was I nine months and one day ago? I can hardly remember.
Nine months and one day later, I’m still referred to by doctors as a cancer patient. I’m still talking to my medical aid about my cancer benefits. I’m still the recipient of fresh new batches of ‘Cancer Face’ (my fave) and pity. And I recently had to have a cancer conversation with a beauty therapist who was suggesting a particular laser facial (Laser is a no-no if you’re trying to kick the cancer habit. Some lasers really love to stimulate cell growth. If you have cancer cells, you don’t want those fuckers reproducing. Reproducing cancer cells are particularly inconvenient.).
We are so used to being described and defined by what people see first. Is it your skin colour? Maybe your hair colour? Your gender? Your body shape? Maybe once they get to know a bit more about you, they’d use your religion or occupation to define you. Your marital status is also a means of definition (My single homeys know all about this.). I’m used to all of that. Our whole beings squished into a string of keywords.
But life is fluid and so are these keywords. They change. Right now, I’ll bet some of you are something you weren’t nine months and one day ago. Mother? Father? Husband? Wife? Divorcee? Single? Unemployed? Bereaved?
Some of these labels are easier to fit into than others. It’s like getting a drastic new haircut. You keep getting a fright every time you look in the mirror. Is that me? Do I like this? Does this feel like me? But some labels don’t grow out. Some of them can’t be fixed with clips and a styling spray. Some will stick with you forever, whether you want them to or not.
As much as I hate the ‘C’ word, I know it will always be with me. It will follow me to facials, to random check-ups, to scheduled annual check-ups. It’ll pop up on more forms than you’d expect. It is now an indelible stain on my family medical history.
Sometimes people introduce me to others as a cancer survivor. It makes me CRINGE for two reasons. Firstly, I think there are so many more interesting things about me than that. Secondly, I’m not officially a cancer survivor until we get through my one year follow up scans. And I’m going to throw in an unplanned third point; I don’t feel like I survived something. I lived through it. I’m still living through it. It’s a process, not an event. I find this difficult to explain.
Anyway, the whole point of this pointless point is that I added a new label to my collection in the past nine months. I have a new google search tag. I have a new box to tick. I have a new invisible thread to millions of others around the world. A new thing that connects me to a new community. I’m part of a new collective.
And while I’m now part of the fiercest army in the world (Cancer is not for sissies.), I sometimes just long to be Jo, a girl who can’t ride a bicycle, violently hates blue cheese, loves making TV, sometimes shaves off half her hair, loves to travel, and would run you over for a piece of cheesecake.
*Go ahead, haters. Say it. “If you stopped writing about your cancer, people wouldn’t define you by it.” That may be true, but go ahead and fuck off anyway. I can’t find it in me to give even one eighth of a fuck about your thoughts on the matter. (Oh, and Jo is also a girl who likes to say “fuck” a lot. Sorry, mom.)