This was actually happening, and it was going to demand some changes around here. Some of the changes that cancer brings are sharp and immediate. But I’m a problem solver. Always have been. I’d figure them out. It’s a trait I’ve learned and inherited largely from my mom. When I was in high school in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh, my mom and I would sit for hours at the dining room table working though my calculus problems. Our interest would build with every transformation and equation. We even enjoyed the frustrations of getting it wrong and having to circle back, because it made figuring out something hard all the sweeter. Until finally, a multi-paged scramble of letters, symbols and numbers would emerge in solution. One that made perfect sense. We’d sit back and grin at each other. How enormously satisfying.
I didn’t know the rules or building blocks for cancer though. I didn’t know the language. When I tried to assemble my new reality, tried to think my way through a next logical step, my mind was mostly blank. A complete inability to see any part of how to think through this. It was a completely foreign feeling.
I started with creating a way to keep friends and family around me updated. Even just days in, I could see that the repetition around repeating my status was suffocating, a relentless reminder of how much it all sucked. My sister, Heather, stepped up to help. Which was a big deal. We were close growing up and into our thirties, but tensions that led to an argument—one that could only be covered in a separate book—drove a solid stubborn wedge between us. Before my diagnosis we hadn’t spoken in over a year. Cancer is kind of handy in that it scrapes all the bullshit away and leaves what’s really important. I loved Heather. A lot. She loved me. A lot. I spent a lifetime as her little sister and needed that. When she called, we skipped the reconciliation talk entirely and just started planning out an invite only website to let the people around me know what was happening.
For my first post. I figured I’d give the cliff note version of the questions that came up most often. I focused more on framing how I wanted to talk about cancer. Before cancer, I saw people at the grocery store and shared brief, witty banter on my way to pick up a pizza for dinner. After cancer, I would get hung up in nearly every aisle. What’s happening? How are you? The solemn talks with sympathetic, furrowed brows just dragged me down and made me not want to leave the house. I was really just trying to pick up a pizza.
I led people into the way I wanted to deal with cancer by letting everyone know that we can still be us, despite cancer.
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