Last night I went to a party for my friend Tae, who is leaving for 6 months sabbatical in California. I know Tae can look cancer shit up from there, I've heard that Google and Google Scholar work in California. But, my hugely empathetic, neurotic, cultural (Jewy) twin, with the super sharp brain, sharp hair cut and the inclination to leap on a research challenge - I like across town, not continent.
The idea that when Tae gets back, I’ll be post chemo (except for the Rituximab, which they will kindly offer every three months for the next two years, at the cheap Canadian rate of $24 dollars, for which I also get a hospital parking spot) seems unreal. Will I then be a person who had cancer? who has cancer? both?
I wasn’t going to talk about treatment, or about being sad because Tae is leaving. I was going to draw you a picture of nearly-normal Aviv, out at a party, chatting. Well. chatting, I’ll admit, mostly about cancer, which I now have the capacity to make strangely entertaining. But about other stuff too, like people’s lives, people who aren’t me. The way you do at a good party. And even though I was talking a fair amount about my somewhat diseased life, it felt different from social events - the few social events - I’ve attended over the last weeks. I didn’t have a single moment of retreating into the muffled, isolated cancer bubble, the gated precincts of Lymphomaland.
I did bring Lymphoma along, of course. Don’t go anywhere without her. But she sat more or less quietly in her corner, speaking only when spoken to. I couldn’t hear her normal background/foreground “You have cancer, she doesn’t, You have cancer, she doesn’t, You have cancer, she doesn’t" patter.
She didn’t insist on sitting in my lap, or climbing all over my head and blocking my view. She didn’t suffocate me. She didn't pull me away to whisper about how shitty and isolated she felt. She didn’t spoil my time for a minute.
I wanted to stay. I was having a great time. But I left the party at 10:15, reluctantly grabbing my coat, like a super responsible 14 year old who’s been given an embarrassingly early curfew. “You’re sick Aviva. You don’t want to push it,” I could hear my mother say. But then there was Dr J. whose sparkling response to my question about the holiday season, social gatherings, low blood counts and germs was “Live your life and wash your hands.”
Among the other amazing things I will learn and get from my frenemy Lymphoma, will be an entire body's worth of great tattoo slogans.
Live your life and wash your hands.
I woke up today with the sniffles. But I’m choosing not to worry. I'm simply going to drink and drink and drink. Today I have a brunch date, then friends and their kids coming to bake cookies. Just like an old-style, pre-cancer weekend. I do feel a little guilty about having such a nice time. But then with the good comes the guilty. It wouldn’t be the old pre-cancer Aviva otherwise.