cognitive dissonance


This is not the time to do this, but I need to start at least.  I am fried after this weekend, spent with two new friends – a wonderful young couple – from cancerland.  A whirlwind, a welcoming.  Apparently I should write a book.  New people, new perspectives.  Unknown.  Expanding outward into a world shaped so much by cancer, which I loathe, but expanding in positive and powerful ways.  I do not know how much I want to let cancer take over my life.  This is not what I ever saw happening; how could I know?

Do I want to give up being a lawyer to devote my life to changing the experience of cancer for other young adult patients?  Do I want to give up years of practice and training to chart a course that is largely unknown and unpredictable -and most frightening of all, that is defined by my own cancer odyssey?  I want so badly to leave this part of my life behind – to move on, move away, get back to the life I thought I had.  I don’t want cancer to capsize my life.  I don’t want to bury all of my other passions and skills because of the random accident of my illness.  Why should I let my illness take over the rest of my life, after it has already robbed me of so much?

The part I can’t figure out is that there might be a way for cancer to transform my life for the good – in ways I cannot yet see or define.  Mike said, “Look at Heidi.  She is partying in Dublin with Lance Armstrong right now because of cancer.  How is that a bad thing?”  Well of course it sounds fucking awesome, and it’s fabulous that people like Heidi have found a way to translate their own cancer experience into power and insight for those who come after them.  But I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t even know if I want to.

Right now, my life is expanding and changing in so many ways, most of them because of cancer.  When I was sick, my life had contracted to the smallest possible size, the most microscopic of meanings: simply surviving.  I lost touch with so much of my own sense of capability and energy and strength. I was just trying to keep on living, however dysfunctionally.

Now, I am spending epic weekends with new friends who share in the knowledge of what it means to be young, with cancer, trying to figure out how to live.  Next week I will be in Wyoming with a group of complete strangers, also survivors, climbing rocks in the Grand Tetons.  Experiences I thought I would never have.  People I otherwise would never have met.  A whole new frame of reference for understanding who I am, my place in the world and what I am meant to be doing with my time on earth.  How can I be so angry at cancer, and so grateful to have the opportunity to engage in this kind of self-discovery?  The clash of these feelings inside of me makes me feel confused and a bit torn apart, but also very much alive. Maybe more than I ever was before.

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