I am cancer-tired. Cancer-tired is distinctly and directly wrapped up in having cancer. It is the exhaustion resulting from rapidly becoming literate in a new language and becoming able to aggregate, navigate, and reproduce cancer-information, and being forced to use cancer-information in order to survive every. single. second. Cancer-tired is exhaustion from decisions, exhaustion from opinions, exhaustion from options, exhaustion. Cancer-tired is rooted in not having a break from cancer, not being able to move away from cancer, wondering if you will always be so sedimented in cancer.
A couple days ago, we decided we needed a vacation. We never went on our honeymoon, because well- I got cancer. So we started looking again, at Italy and Thailand. And then we decided actually, we needed a beach retreat. Something requiring no trains, no multi-city jumping, not too many maps. Something extravagantly easy. Hawaii, the Bahamas– think pools, beach, sun, fruit, and straws with curly-cues in them. Some beautiful place where it would be totally appropriate to stay in our little love nook for the whole week, somewhere we could have coffee on a porch overlooking the ocean in our pajamas, somewhere we would either have a fantastic kitchen for culinary adventures or someone else to cook for us, somewhere where we could swim in salty water and not worry about the hour or the calendar. That kind of week seems absolutely necessary.
But in order to make absolutely necessary possible planning is still entailed. I literally cannot do it. I don’t want to make a decision about which island. I don’t want to cost-compare between tropical retreats. I don’t want to figure out if we need a rental car. I am too tired of making decisions. I am too tired of aggregating information. I am too tired. I don’t care if its touristy, though judging by the number of recommendations I have received for “non-touristy” spot X, it’s probably taboo for a young academic who loves to travel to desire easy luxury. Gasp! I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m too cancer-tired to care. I have zero energy left to do any planning. My to-do list is too long already, and I hate these sorts of morbid details.
I have no energy to become literate in a new vacation destination. I have spent the last year becoming literate in cancer. Want to talk about chemotherapy cocktails or survival rates or young adult cancer and fertility? Fine. I learned the language. I can speak it in my sleep. I probably added thousands of words to my vocabulary. Certainly, by becoming cancer-literate I have stumbled upon scores of online communities and lots of new friends who have filled the gaps in my cancer-education. I read new studies all the time and extract the information that is relevant to me, filing it away for some time when I am in a hospital discussing my life and death chances- and I’m not being dramatic, for once. That’s a real conversation I have regularly in hospitals.
Cancer-tired is to feel what it means to be precarious, without the security of tomorrow, and to stop caring not because you’ve reached a enlightened state of awareness, but because you simply do not have the energy to care. This is a fine point that is often skewed by others without cancer. People seem to think cancer delivers people to a state of more-knowing, to a place of “I’m better now because of the cancer,” to some kind of desirable knowledge born out of sheer tragedy. I guess that’s what you can choose to see if you refuse to see cancer, and if you won’t witness that my not-caring about tomorrow is mostly about my total lack of energy, my sheer exhaustion. Cancer-tired isn’t sexy, illuminated, intelligent, or enlightened. It’s tired.
There are legions of people out there who know about cancer-tired. Now, I am one of them. And I am cancer-tired.