I’ve sat down to write lately, tired and hoping to find a way out through words. But each time, I’ve paused for worry. These days, more and more friends tell me they didn’t say anything because they didn’t know what to say, or they were afraid of asking the wrong question so they chose not to ask, or they thought they offended me once so they decided to back way. Friends peek in and vanish, stop responding to emails and flood me with text messages. It’s a living, breathing contradiction, interacting with people around cancer.
So today, I went skipping instead. I skipped to the park, and around the loop, with my headphones blaring. It sunny, and warm, and my boob didn’t throb, and I lived in the contradiction that is cancer, and I relished needing, writing, wanting opposites, parallels, unimaginables. I need you to call, but I won’t answer. I have to skip and run and play, and I also want to hide away under dark covers and mope. I want you to come, but you must tread carefully and skirt the fire, and know you will get burned. I wish you were here, but won’t invite you into this space. Contradiction, indeed. Some think I need to be more understanding of the ebb and flow, more able to acknowledge an effort made, a good intention. I wonder if my words will be words that lash out and scar someone I care about. I am asked to work a little harder for everyone else, to understand a little more, to forgive all the time, but I wonder what would happen, if tables were turned? Might others begin to think, feel, do with an empathy that is right now unimaginable? If this is happening to me, why can’t everyone else do the work to understand, and why should I do the work of making this intelligible and palatable? Should I censor my cancer, so others feel more comfortable, more appreciated, more loved? I cannot, and so I skip. If I must live this, cancers’ tentacles seep poison into those around me, too, and the poison burns inside my body in ways you cannot see. I recoil, you back away, you burn, I burn, there is fire. And that is what this blog is for, a space to dump the poison, a space to wonder at what is behind the silver lining narratives, a place to be honest. A woman I know and love dearly who also has breast cancer looked at me once, and said, “You tell the truth on that blog. You tell how hard it is. Keep telling the truth.” And she is right: how badly we need more spaces of truth.
I pause again, and I know I don’t write so that others understand. I don’t write to take care of everyone else. I don’t write to make sure people know what to say. I don’t write to let anyone know how I’m coping or what I’m trying or if I want visitors. I write because I need a corner of the internet to document this tangled web of experience they call cancer. I know this writing is not to explain cancer to others, and I know it’s not to update those near and dear about my cancer, and I know it’s not about placating, thanking, or recognizing the people around me who spread love, who fuck up, who laugh and cry alongside me. It’s just not about that.
This writing is about channeling disbelief into words, scripting feeling onto paragraphs, dumping feeling from inside my body into the etherwebs. This writing is about unedited documentation. This writing is about connecting. This writing is about giving voice to something other than the dominant narratives surrounding breast cancer, dominant narratives dripping with hope and silver linings and motherly women and pink ribbons. This writing is about my narrative. This writing is about knowing from a place of young breast cancer. This writing is about working through and living in between the fear, the confusion, the decision-making whirlwind, the constant misunderstanding.
This writing is for me.