What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?
Cancer. The big C. The disease for which I had no pre-existing health habits contributing to its appearance. I spiraled for 20 years, finally coming into my own, beginning to find some control again, then shot out into space with a wound and new label, “chronic disease.”
See, if you survive cancer, if you make it through the radiation, surgeries, recurrences, (spared chemotherapy and metastasis – so far), even when you envision yourself cured, back on track, wham – the sequelae of the treatments sparing your life rise up, reminding you life is a gift, not a right, and what you did well in your life before isn’t the same in the life now changed – the new normal.
Even the new normal changes:
- where once there was song, now there is a creaky, off-key voice of limited register
- where once there was clear speech, the necessary reorganization of your internal oral-pharynx sends vowels and consonants tumbling for the tentative cooperation of your battered, grafted tongue
- where once there was dining with wine, now there is no mastication, no sipping of nectar, only the drip of prescribed liquid feeding bypassing your dying palate directly into your stomach, olfaction replacing the experience of taste
Now I know…. cancer’s effects will never be over, never be “done.” Strangely, after the difficulties of the last two years dealing with the wound, hyperbaric treatments, and finally, another surgery, I feel release. My seemingly unanchored life feels solid again.
Now I know…. accept chronic change as normal – not in the societal sense but deep in my psyche and body: cancer will never leave but no longer will it rule nor flay me open in fear, a scourge wanting life small.
Now I know… life is LARGE, life is strong, life is vibrant – every day, every hour, every change….