It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling. I guess it’s that I’d begun to hope. And now that there’s a new tumor, I feel like the rug has been yanked out from under me. But it’s not just any rug or even a tablecloth on a heavily-laden table; it was a magic carpet, and now I’m falling, forever falling.
I keep asking myself why I’m so upset. It’s not that I’m scared to die, not anymore. Pain is far worse than death. I’m just grieving because I want more time with my children, my husband, my family and friends.
I pondered these deep issues as a 20-something cashier helped me at a gas station today. But instead of offering good customer service, she just complained because she has to work late and she’s “tired of constantly getting hit on.”
“Yeah, sometimes life sucks,” I said kindly, but I wanted to flip out.
“You have no idea,” she said. “It sucks looking the way I do. Men just won’t leave me alone.”
Wow! Talk about having it rough. I’m trying NOT to be an a$$hole or to let this get to me. After all, she has no idea that I have cancer…or that I’m fighting what feels like a losing battle. She has no clue that “getting hit on too much” seems superficial and silly to someone who’s facing death before the age of 40…to someone who’s empathetic to the plight of so many Ukrainians…to someone who’s nearly twice her age. I shouldn’t have gotten angry, but part of me was.
When I arrived back home, in an effort to calm my completely unfounded feelings of anger toward this poor woman, I looked through pictures of my favorite memories. I thought it would be good to remember times when “I” didn’t always realize how good I had things. I smiled over tremendous milestones with my kids, my wedding (Mike looked so absolutely handsome that I felt stunned), book signings, when I held Zeke before he died, photos from my childhood, and so much more. Then my hand fell onto something fortuitous, a picture from my days running a newspaper.
A group had planned to visit the Eastern Idaho State Fair (EISF) from the veterans’ home. “One of them just adores Marilyn Monroe,” a woman had told me.
I sat at my desk, twirling my bleached blonde hair. (You can’t pay me to keep my hair the same color for longer than two months!) I remembered being upset because I worked so many hours, and I barely saw my family. I’d recently complained about having to work late and covering too many story. (If I only knew what would happen in a few short years!) Luckily, my next story would be fun. In fact, the following day, I’d interview the vets about their visit to the fair.
“Marilyn Monroe,” I whispered and suddenly remembered a dress I’d recently found at Goodwill—it looked exactly like something Marilyn would wear. So, the day of the vets’ outing to EISF, I donned the dress and curled my hair. I looked nothing like Marilyn, but people could at least tell I’d tried.
I’ll never forget when one of the vets saw me. “Randy” asked if he could get a picture with me to put on his wall at the assisted living home. I even sat on his lap with all of the other vets around. I’d tried to do something fun for them, but I realized they’d done something for me. They made me feel valued and special. And as I wrote the story, I remember thinking that I didn’t mind working late quite so much because I truly appreciated the moment.
So, that’s what I need to do now, as cliche as that sounds. I know I’ll shake it off and get back to my regular happy self soon, but I’m embarrassed to say that part of me is still digesting last week’s news.
I am grateful that I’ve led such a good life and that I have so many wonderful memories to look back on. Plus, it’s not over yet. They call this a battle for a reason. For my family, I need to keep fighting. Plus, I’ve always liked rooting for the underdog anyway.