Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little by Little

This past Tuesday night was an unusual one for me. After a brief night out with my friend, Jonny and his boyfriend (Jonny is a fellow cancer survivor) I came home, played some Mario Kart and read an essay from The Sun magazine before turning in. I had no trouble falling asleep even though I had a regular check-up with my oncologist the following morning.

In the past year and a half since I have been cancer-free (like, normal!), these appointments have been a source of minor to moderate anxiety. Especially the night before my visit. Though my body recovered well from my Time With Lymphoma, no telltale-swollen lymph nodes on my earthly vessel, I can’t help but consider that there might be something wrong the night before my check-up. Maybe my oncologist will tell me that something looked awry with my blood tests? Or that something unusual popped up on the chest x-ray or PET scans they have done to monitor my body? Because of these worrisome thoughts, I have often had trouble falling asleep on the night before these appointments. That’s why it’s slightly momentous to me that I slept peaceably this past Tuesday. A moment I can point toward to know that Life Without Cancer is getting easier.

A year ago, I contacted a fellow young Hodgkin lymphoma survivor through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s First Connection Program. His name is Mike. When I first contacted him, he had been lymphoma-free for three years. I was struggling with cancer survivorship at the time. I was freaking out about this tightness I felt in my chest in the area where my cancerous tumor used to be. I had grossly underestimated how difficult survivorship would be while I underwent my treatments. One of the things he told me during our long conversation that resonated with me was that survivorship would get easier with time. Though I didn’t have the personal experience to comprehend that then, I knew what he said would reveal itself to be true in time.

And it has.

Little by little.

I was smiley when I stepped out of Ward 86 after my check-up. Before I descended its front steps, I looked out over the Mission District, the Sutro Tower off in the distance. The city was aglow beneath the afternoon sun. If I had the grace, balance, and moxie, I could have performed a ditty of a dance on those steps before I walked over to my bicycle (think musical or Jeff Bridge’s dance number in The Big Lebowski). Months ago, it would have been an unfathomable notion, but I had arrived at a point where I kind of looked forward to these visits (minus all the time in the waiting room). I love receiving good news about my health. Delight from that reminder that I am alive and well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

about mi bebe, my memoir

In the past year or so, I've become an aficionado of Hall of Fame speeches. It started with the moving and ridiculously eloquent speech Emmitt Smith made when he was inducted into the NFL's Hall of Fame. This fascination and admiration grew with speeches from the likes of Jerry Rice, Dennis Rodman, and Shannon Sharpe. I love watching them on YouTube to hear what motivated these extraordinary athletes.

Some of you may know how much I love Metallica. So imagine the excitement I got when I realized that there is a YouTube user, somewhere out there in this strange universe, who took the time to upload the speeches they made when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 (bless you for it!)

I watched all their speeches: Newsted, Trujillo, Hammett, Cliff Burton's dad; my boy, James Hetfield, and Lars (my least favorite band member). They were all nice. More ra-ra! and polite instead of insightful or moving. But Flea's 10-minute induction speech of Metallica is another matter altogether.

His speech was unbelievable. So many quotable gems——about the genesis of their music, the cathartic beauty of thrash metal (or whatever you may call it), and about Metallica and their music. I couldn't help but get amped when he talked about the first time he heard Metallica, "Fight Fire With Fire." He was spot-on when he said that Metallica is a "mighty force of nature." It's a fucking deep speech full of unabashed gusto and eloquence, the most moving words I've heard about Cliff Burton. To boot, it comes from a man who also happens to be a kick-ass musician. I've listened to it a few times at work because of the passion he brought to his speech. It also resonated deeply with me because of what I'm trying to do with my post-cancer life.

This is my favorite part of his speech:

"It is always really absurd to me when I hear people speak of heavy music——angry, aggressive music——as being negative, or unhealthy for children, and so on. Firstly, the playing of ferocious music is the healthiest release of anger for the performer of it. It is alchemy; it is a metamorphosis; it is turning something potentially destructive and a source of misery into something beautiful——something rocking, and something uplifting for the band and for the audience."

And that's what I'm trying to do through my memoir, too.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

a well-trained cancer survivor

A while back, I awoke in the middle of the night. The bedroom in my still-sort-of-new apartment was practically pitch dark. A faint pale light seeped through the window curtains. From my pillow, I could see the reflection of the room in the closet mirror. My eyes shot open, my limbs stiffened when I lifted my head and saw what looked like the reflection of a dark hooded figure, standing and looking over me while I lay in bed. I stared back at that shadowy reflection in the corner of the mirror. I was prepared to bolt at it. Wring its neck. Grind my teeth and tell it, You’re not taking me now.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I realized that my supposed deathly visitor was nothing more than the reflection of my dark blue curtains. I sighed. A grin came over me as I laid my head back on my pillow. I was pleased to know that I would not have hesitated to wrangle with Death.