Turns out, cancer is everywhere. It’s not like I’m looking for it, but I'd have to stay home with the radio off not to hear it mentioned umpteen times a day. Like the 17 months when I was trying desperately to conceive, and all I saw were pregnant women. Every one of them, even the actresses using pillows or prosthetic bumps on cleaning product ads or The Young and the Restless upset me.
Now, everywhere I turn there’s a malignancy clamoring for my attention.
Not really clamoring, it’s there where it always was. But now I’m a cancer magnet. Or flashlight. You’d think I’d be safe at a Baptist Church where the University of Toronto Gospel Choir was singing Xmas songs (best version of Hark the Herald Angels I’ve ever heard.) But, no. During a break in the music, there was a fundraising pitch for an organization supporting young people with, and recovering from, cancer. A choir member and survivor spoke of the struggles young cancer victims face. So moving, but seasonally inappropriate. Couldn’t they have instead done gifts for kids in need? I felt myself come apart from the rest of the concertgoers, in a way that I hadn’t felt being a Jew among vocal enthusiasts of Jesus Christ. Why are they talking about cancer? Don’t they know how painful this is for me? For ME?
Staying at home selecting romantic comedies as a distraction seemed the safer bet. But, guess what? One Day with Anne Hathaway well let’s just say I was ambushed. Fuck you Netflix. Maybe as corporations go, you aren’t that bad. You didn’t spill millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, and I’m not a duck, but an informed consumer who clicked and stayed. But I’m vulnerable, right?
Modeled loosely on the wonderful 1970's film, Same Time Next Year One Day gives us 18 years' worth of annual glimpses at the sodden and pathetic lives of Emma and Dexter. Somewhere in the middle of all this, Dexter’s lovely mother gets cancer. She says profound things about life. Then she dies. What the hell? Come on. That was so unnecessary.
Then, after years of misery (he’s drunk, she’s insecure) Emma and Dexter get together - best love that was ever worth waiting 18 years for. Then, Emma gets hit by a truck. Didn’t see that one coming, either. And while being hit by a truck isn't cancer, it’s certainly what getting cancer felt like to me.
And so, I’m in bed again, crying about another shitty movie. I'm becoming the Roger Ebert of cancer patients. (And he was a cancer victim himself.) At least I didn’t cry during the movie. The tears in bed are for the shock of it, for wasted time, for fears that are, for me, right under the surface. Why do I let this movie scratch them?
The learnings - and there are always many learnings - are a) use Rotten Tomatoes before you watch a movie, b) cancer is everywhere, behaves badly, sneaks up, smacks you, spits in your face or pees on your leg, and d) everything is writing material, even Netflix movies I'd rather not have watched.
Cancer is the shock that keeps on shocking. Maybe if I turn every corner expecting it, (a depressing but potentially helpful strategy), I’ll stop being surprised when it attacks.