Yesterday I was able to publish a new page – “Cancer Blog Links”. I plan to continue to add to this content, especially to round out the selection of less common, less vocal cancers (the activist nature of specific cancer populations being an unusual cultural phenomenon). Predictably perhaps the best represented cancers were breast cancer and Hodgkins disease. I contacted everyone who was on the blog list. I had my highest turnout to date, over 120. Also I received the most comments ever. Thanks to everyone for that.
But as I read more and more blogs, I recall that sense of immediacy that comes in the months after diagnosis or relapse when treatment is still very much ongoing. This is a time when the nerves are still raw, the future more uncertain, the stakes still so high. I hate to say but, in a way, I miss that. Make no mistake, I am very gratified to be over five years out from my last bout with leukemia. I am gratified in fact just to be alive today because back then I doubted that I would still be here in 2009. This is well beyond when I thought I would live.
Cancer is more than a memory, more of a lingering shadow, potent in its threat to return at any moment. It has in many ways determined my present and future in cutting off certain avenues, in limiting the number of paths that I might select to explore. I am blind in my left eye and still experience fatigue and occasional infections. My skin is fragile. I bleed and bruise easily. I have not returned to work. I have been on disability for five years. That fact of not working, not actively bringing money, and consequently the value attached has shaped how I regard myself, how I define myself in relation to being a person in this world. And this all occurs without the drama of the ongoing debilitating effects of disease and treatment. All of the attention and affection which others in your life direct towards you gradually fades as it necessarily should after recovery.
Survival can be a slog, protracted, fading in its wonder and richness. Again I marvel at being alive 88 months after being diagnosed with a disease described as being “invariably fatal” and whose median survial is 8 months. No I don’t mean to complain but merely to comment, to reflect, to observe on my life now and on how the contours of that shadow that still follows me have so definitely nudged my course forward.
Such reflection is important as the writer of a blog on cancer. What is it that I bring at this moment to my writing? I recall from my blog browsing yesterday the image of another survivor whose own cancer felt weak and less significant from that of her neighbor in the next bed whose cancer had a more aggressive and physically obnoxious nature. It was as if one person’s suffering somehow diminished her own. Many of us, in seeking to search for the good and hopeful signs during our battle with cancer, succeed in finding reasons why we prefer our own suffering to another patient’s. It is perhaps part of the nature of surviving.
So what can a bring to my writing when the immediacy of the threat of active cancer is not present? I too felt, like my fellow blogger, that the history, the story of my own suffering pales because it is mostly passed, because now, today I am or seem to be in a much better place than others in this community of cancer bloggers. My reasons for writing this blog are perhaps different. In the beginning I wrote for me. Writing was fighting. Writing was giving shape to my drama, strength to my purpose. Writing was part of my survival. And if not survival, then putting forth a testament to how I once strived to make one final difference in the world – how I fought and lost or fought and won.
My story has been told before, over years, as live action drama. So it is not new or fresh. Others know the beginnings, middle and endings. But writing is always about sharing. So I guess that I offer this blog in the belief that it has some value that others with cancer may draw from to take and use in their own struggle as they might. All stories of redemption, of resurrection are stories of hope.
I still write for me. If I write just for you it will not work for either of us. I write out of the hope that I might somehow still make a difference. But the journal of my history is not enough. It is a mere part of the project. I struggle to find reflections that round out and lend meaning to my presence. I look for other ways to find an audience, to build a real if passing community. I seek ways to build bridges, connections, mutual and reciprocal. The traffic and commerce on bridges should go both ways.
I yearn, as all bloogers do, for validation in the form of comments and ideas. I do not propose to put a burden on my readers – the responsibility of reciprocity. I merely hope to extend permission, to expose, awaken , nurture …. courage, hope, faith, empathy, sharing.