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I Don’t Know Cancer

I made my way over the Kelsie this afternoon for a visit. She’s not feeling well for a bit after her treatments so finding time to visit in the window before her chemo is a necessity. Of course I’m competing with much needed naps and necessary errands so it’s about shoehorning a bit of time in between things that are more urgent.

I don’t really know what cancer is. I mean I understand that it’s a mutation which creates tumors and unchecked death. I understand how we treat it to some degree but what I don’t understand, what I can’t possibly understand is what it’s like to put your life on hold while you suffer through treatments that are near deadly themselves.

Kelsie was explaining a bit of the culture of cancer to me and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I guess I’m busy looking at her and thinking how great it is that she has eyelashes and perfect skin. I can’t see a stomachache or fatigue so I get to pretend it isn’t there. It’s not that I’m trying to be Miss Merry Sunshine rather it’s that I can’t understand what I can’t see. I try to imagine but then I don’t let my brain stretch too far because it’s painful to imagine my friend in agony.

So I sort of see the surface. And I assume we all do to some extent.

I see Kelsie and go home and examine my breasts doe the first time not ignoring my armpits where she had also found a lump. I feel a little panicked because she’s the strongest woman I know and if that motherfucker cancer could invade her body then no one is safe.

I find myself talking too sweetly and then I check myself. Kelsie isn’t dying, she’s a little spacey but in fairness I’ve showed up on the wrong day once already this week and will probably do the same next week. I try to pretend like everything’s normal because this is the new normal. It’s not normal though and even though it’s comfortable it’s only comfortable because of who we are, not because of where we are in time and space.

I come home looking to escape with a good blog and read that Dawn is having a first treatment for her cancer, her melanoma, and I go back to the bathroom to re-examine my breasts and also now every spot on my body including this one odd freckle on my foot. I curse my tan lines and my olive skin and have a moment, just a fleeting moment, of self awareness where I realize that I don’t know cancer, we don’t know cancer because we’re afraid. The folks we love so much are living our worst nightmare and if we look too closely we’re scared we’ll catch it. Maybe not catching the cancer, but catching the pain, and that shit’s scary.

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