…cancer showed up, brash and fiery, with absolutely no warning. It tried to change everything – with doctor visits and meal plans and hospital visits and fitness routines and specialist visits and also the strange-tasting Morning-Noon-Night concoctions designed to strengthen the body and diminish the disease.
But life still blossoms, even when time seems frozen around a single lump on a single breast.
My grandmother had this cancer. My sisterfriend’s aunt had this cancer. A kindred’s mother has battled this cancer over, and over, and over again. I do not know a soul who has not met cancer in some form, at some time, in some undesirable, unshakeable encounter.
And now JL, herself, has cancer. And while everything is different, nothing has changed. Not by a long shot.
Because when you have cancer, you still greet the weekend with your wife, lounging against the counter while the coffee brews and the dog nibbles at a crumb on the floor. You still check your e-mail. You still take care of your clients. You still vote in the Primaries.
When you have cancer, you describe your next tattoo while the bread toasts – bread you’ll slather with almond butter, blueberries, and pumpkin seeds. Everyone takes bites, because it’s too good not to share. Your wife finishes her coffee, and you finish your first Morning-Noon-Night concoction of the day.
When you have cancer, you hold your wife’s hands over the dining table. You scold The Little Dog for snarling at The Foster Dog. You describe your recent adventures in home renovation. You drink a mug of tea to calm your stomach.
When you have cancer, you pile on the sofa and play video games. You yell at the beast trying to eat your warrior, furiously pressing B when you should be pressing D (or was it C?) But it doesn’t matter, because the best part isn’t the gaming; it’s the snuggling – and the silliness. As it’s always been.
When you have cancer you brush tufts of The Little Dog’s fur off the sofa leather. You smell your wife’s hair and tell her you like the shirt she’s wearing. You engage in an in-depth dialogue on measuring yourself for the perfect bra. Your wife informs everyone in earshot that you have the perfect breasts, and you both laugh at the absurdity of it all.
When you have cancer, you nap with the cat. You grin at the latest story about the grandbaby. You adjust The Little Dog, perched precariously on your hip. You murmur an inside joke to your wife and giggle as she folds into uncontrollable laughter.
When you have cancer, you buy groceries and you color your hair and you plan drinks with friends. You wash dishes and fold laundry and binge-watch the latest season of your favorite show. You cook dinner and bitch about the traffic and buy a birthday gift for a friend.
You live (a little harder). You love (a little longer). You laugh (a little louder). You say FUCK CANCER unapologetically, the way one punches a bully; the way one yells a battle cry.
Because when you have cancer, yes: you have cancer.
But cancer doesn’t have you. Not by a long shot.