AVIVA RUBIN “LOST AND FOUND IN LYMPHOMALAND”
This book is by my daughter, AVIVA RUBIN, and is an excerpt from the last chapter. Cancer can leave the body but eliminating it from the mind is an ongoing job.
“It’s time for cancer to step away, but it won’t leave the building. It’s hanging around begging me to play mind games.
Sometimes (at least three times a day) it steers me into a panelled den to do my fear jigsaw puzzles. The pieces keep changing. Is that twinge in my lower abdomen ovarian cancer, that ache in my breast, breast cancer, that pain under my eyebrows, a new lymphoma tumour? Are these reasonable fears?
Nothing’s reasonable. Cancer spits on reason. And anyway, me and reason, we’ve never been that tight. Having another kind of cancer may be as likely as hitting a moose in downtown Toronto. But it’s not impossible. Best to be ready.
Cancer sucks the air out of a room, perches on top of family dinners, blurs views of the Adriatic, and casts its shadow without warning It’s tiring to fend it off and out of the question not to. Sometimes it needs to be outrun. Sometimes it needs to be bashed over the head with a baseball bat. Sometimes it needs to be sung to sleep with a lullaby.
It probably looks like a fly swatter out to keep it at bay now, like I could opt out of the games if I really wanted to: “You’re done, right? The cancer is in remission, right? You’re feeling good, right? Don’t worry so much. You look great. Get on with your life.
When I’m not reacting to cancer’s provocations, I’m trying to sort out life’s big questions about balance, happiness, calm, fun, health, love. In the meantime, the little questions, like where all my tax information is, go unanswered.
Meditation seemed key. I made a commitment, worked up to twenty-five minutes a day and thought I’d never stop. Until I did. Now getting it back on my schedule seems near impossible.
On the positive side, I started dating. Between anxiety, daily dinner dilemmas, raising kids, shopping, laundry and maintenance chemo, someone asked me out. Someone who’d read almost every embarrassing detail of my cancer writing and was still willing to leap in. I went. I’m having a lively time. I want to yell about it, but I keep quiet. Living out loud is temping fate and cancer frowns upon that. Don’t make too many plans. Don’t have too much fun.
Some people live large after cancer, but many of us live out lives in increments that don’t feel too bold or cocky, and make no assumptions about where or if we’ll be in a decade. I put caveats next to my dreams. Whisper them.
I have many years worth of my kids’ great, small and silly escapades to witness. I want to make long-term plans without crying and thinking I dare not look that far ahead. Whenever people die of cancer, I take it personally, as a sign not to stray too far from fear.
Maybe in time, boldness, optimism and planning ahead will stop feeling insolent. There is no such thing as tempting fate anyway. Fate is what we cobble together with hindsight. Fate is just another word for life. Only humans are egocentric enough to think we can tempt it, or push it off course.
Cancer may have taken away some of the control I had over my life, but mostly it peed all over my illusion that I had that much in the first place. That any of us do. We can control our actions and reactions, but rarely what befalls us. I was healthy, ate well and exercised, but cancer happened. It happens all the time. It intimidates, bullies and tells me where to go. Now I start doing the same back. ‘Listen Cancer, you fucking asshole, you don’t get to ruin everything.’ That’s a start at control.
It’s hard for people to understand how the disease eats away at confidence, joy, hope. How it cuts off your bootstraps, making it hard to pull yourself up. I don’t know what bootstraps are, but people who have them tell people who don’t to pull themselves up all the time. Don’t worry about it. Get on with your life.’
This is what getting on with my life looks like. Step in, step back, step in again, spin around, shake. Life with lymphoma looks a lot like the Hokey Pokey.
Up until cancer, I was a person who loved no surprises. But certainty is an illusion I’ve had to let go. There’s nothing to know. There’s simply the decision to draw a line between what was and what will be, and make the choice to move forward (again and again).
I’m trying. I’m here. Lost and found in Lymphomaland.”
If you have or have had cancer you would benefit from reading this book. It can be purchased from “amazon.com”.