You think you have it so hard.
You've got a test next week, your best friend is being a b word, there's some repair you need for your car that costs $1100, your cat is sick, your boss is a prick, your tooth has a giant cavity, and you hate your ex-boyfriend. Life is terrible. You want to die.
And you go on like this for years. Years. Going from one crisis to the next. Then one day you get a phone call, and you have cancer. Bam. Like a hit from a baseball bat to the head. Cancer. Everything spins for a minute. The world seems to jolt to a stop.
Everything changes. No more "what am I going to do about my econ grade?" Now it's become "what am I going to do about being dead?" It sucks. It sucks so bad, that unless you've been through it, you can't even begin to fathom the feeling. It hollows you out in a split second. It's like being struck by lightning.
But you know yourself. And you don't quit. So you say, you know what? I can do this. I can beat this. I have no doubt I can beat this. And so you do the treatment. You have a 50% chance of living for 5 more years, so you decide to fight like hell. You have no idea what hell will be like.
The treatment lasts for one year, and the side effects are brutal. You get a rash. You get GERD. You get IBS. You feel like someone is continually hitting you in the stomach for about a year. Your bones ache like they are being frozen within your skin. You get strange shooting pains all over your body at random times for no apparent reason. You are so tired, you fall asleep standing up. You are so tired, you crap your pants- more than once. You are so sick that you have to decide what hurts worse- hunger pains or the pain from eating. You are so sick that your esophagus bleeds. Your mouth is filled with yeasty pustules. You pass out in the shower. You still have the rash. You have a fever almost every single day for an entire year. You feel every moment like you'll collapse if you don't lie down. You miss important engagements- graduations, concerts, parties, dinners- because you are so sick. You get to the point where you can't even run simple errands- you have to take a wheelchair everywhere. You sleep 70% of every day and night. You wake up to realize you've missed whole days. The hormones make you crazy, and when you are awake, everything makes you cry. You gain 50 pounds. You cannot catch an effing break to save your life. You have no control over anything anymore. You have been stripped down to your bare existence. You hate your life, and you want to die. And this time for real.
In this time, when, to no fault of your own, you have reached your absolute low point, mentally and physically, you look around you for love and support and reassurance- and you feel so small and frail and alone. You are alone because, through all this, you not only lost yourself, but you lost so many others. The first was your close aunt- who, in her own grieving process, lashed out at you for the mistakes that you'd made in the past. Why didn't you take better care of yourself? You could've prevented this! She has no idea how to deal with what is happening to you and can't bear to watch it. Her anger at the situation overfills her heart and she thrashes it around wildly. You are in the direct path. She cuts you out of her life.
Your friends from adulthood try to hang in there, but when they've never seen death so close before, they begin to question their own immortality. This ish ain't pretty if you've never seen it before, and one by one, memory by memory, lonely tiny morsels of trust left in your once overflowing life, the friends become consumed with their own lives- after all, yours IS the only one that's stopped- and they disappear. They all have bills to pay, kids to raise, families to tend. But what is most striking to you are the mistakes you made, whatever it is that you must have done to make all these friends disappear. Everyone is so uncomfortable around you. You are overwhelmed with shame.
You cling to those last few people. One of your caregivers is an old friend from way back. You lean on her. She thinks that you should be handling the illness one way, and you think you should be handling it another. Tempers flare. Words flail like sharp weapons- and it becomes a game of who can cut the other deeper. It's like a bomb went off inside you both, and feels like the worst breakup ever- even though it's not even with a guy. You feel like a limb has been severed. You both are miserable, but neither will admit it. A friendship 20 years old, gone like the snap of your fingers.
Because you're sick of it! You're sick of it all! To have to endure everything, and then, in the midst of it bare the psychoses of those around you? To have to carry their inadequacies as they dump them on you for being sick? You're the cancer patient! These are their faults, not yours! Why are they lashing out at you, making your life even worse? Shouldn't I be the one being taken care of here?
What is it going to take?!? It's all been ripped from your clutches- your life, your health, your body, your future, you friends, your dreams, your time, your energy, your job. It has even taken your personality. You are shaken to your core. You are a naked shell compared to what you once were. You are Job. You look around you and it is a desolate wasteland of nothingness that surrounds you now. How did you even get here? A year ago you never would've believed that this would be your life now. You were so naive. The destruction from your life has created a huge void. Is this rock bottom? Please tell me this is rock bottom. Please tell me things get better from here.
There is nothing left to do but rebuild. You discover that the whole time you thought you were alone, there was a prince right beside you. He was there holding you up when you weren't looking, all along. The cancer seems to be gone. You can allow your body to begin mending. It will take years, and the fatigue and pain never fully subside. You try to figure out who you are now. You try to build your old life again, but everything is different. Everyday is a brick. Brick by brick, though, you make a new life. It's not as carefree as it was, but you are alive. Things are not easy, brick by brick. Slowly you rebuild.
Most importantly you find, you are not alone. You find a community of other survivors. Healing is not easy, and many of the symptoms still exist. Nothing is the same as it was, your body has changed, your mind is not the same, your personality is different. But you have learned to accept that. Things are ok. Then things are good. There are still very few true friends, and only one or two people you trust anymore, but slowly life becomes great again. The bricks begin to build a structure, which is still wobbly most of the time. Brick by brick, it becomes stronger. There are cancer scares, and sickness, death and disasters. And finally, after a long, hard road, when you realize that everything is still in shambles, you sigh to yourself and decide to just be happy for the little there is. It is not much, but it is awesome. Life has begun again. It has been six years, and life is starting to look like a life I like to live again. Thank you, God.