I’ve been terrified of getting cancer for decades. An unreasonable fear. There’s no history in my family. But cancer is familiar. It’s a popular theme that runs rampant through our cultural psyche. Our altruism and fears are cleverly tied up in its coloured ribbons. Until I got it - my own form that has no particular ribbon, I was able to choose when and if I wanted to notice its presence. I don’t get to choose anymore. It’s in my face.
Over the years, my doctor has felt me up more times than I can remember. I’ve consumed litres and litres of water, and sat for hours in waiting rooms with a full bladder dreading what might be revealed about my ovaries or anything else down there. When my mass turned up, it didn’t fit the fears I’d been dragging around so long. When it comes to disease, I have little imagination. I didn’t expect lymphoma. I barely knew what it was.
It’s March 3, 2014 and my adventures in Lymphomaland have hit the Globe and Mail - four pieces over the course of a month - one each Monday – a great gig for a fledgling writer. About three years ago I quit my job doing policy work for the Ontario government and started writing fiction, and memoir about parenting and relationships. I’ve had a bit of success here and there. My fifteen minutes of fame (and judgment) for telling the world I occasionally walk around naked in front of my kids.
I’ve been dreaming about just this kind of thing – a series for a national newspaper. And with a big bang, my fears and desires collided to create this malignant opportunity. Turns out my voice might just lend itself to the insanity, the terror, the humour, the pain of cancer. Turns out this thoughtless, indifferent, random, non-prejudicial fucker of a disease might have something to offer me – or maybe I’m just taking what I can from it.
It’s hard to look on the bright side of cancer, and I usually steer clear of popular self-help adages like when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But here I am, at the side of the road. ¢5 a glass, or just help yourself.