Not that I had an extensive one but I went from being very busy every day after school to nothing within 10 days of the end of high school.
So, today’s post draws on two essays I’ve written previously. It tries to address two things:
A Skill to Cope:
For some people, cancer can be a very lonely experience. Their peers withdraw and they’re not quite sure how to interact with this individual.
However, there are things some folks do, the smallest gestures, that take on great importance. I mean you can see the person sitting quietly by themselves…bald with a few stubborn hairs along with what used to be his normal hairline.
He sits and picks through the food he cannot taste and then suddenly, he smiles. And there, just for that instant, the man seems normal, like nothing was wrong. Why’d he smile? Because, his friend just sat down next to him and cracked a joke.
I had several friends who brought smiles to my face after the first surgery. There were the “Really Splashy Dames” (they signed my yearbook that way). The name of the group was developed from the first letters of their first names – Robin, Stephanie & Debbie. All three were in theatre company with me and yes, Debbie is the same Debbie mentioned in this previous blog entry.
I was inspired by the flowers they brought me in the hospital, of which none of them knew the proper name of the flower. So, they called them “Splashy” because that’s what they looked like. They’re laughter over this was a good release to have in the hospital.
My friends, Adam & Bob, both sought me out over the summer, again to get me out of the house and doing something, whether that was to laugh at a movie or talk about looking forward to college, or even a nice multi-course meal at a local favorite Chinese food place.
Then there was Tony. Both of us had been in classes together, from French where he sat behind me asking for the translation, to Calculus where at one inspired moment, I tried to pull one of my multiple notebooks out from the bottom of a pile of notebooks, and sent the notebook flying nearly decapitating a guy named Todd.
The irony being that I was in a musical at the time where one of the lines from a song I sang was, “Second thoughts about a creep named Todd.” (and yes, Todd was in the same musical too). Robin, who was also in the class, thought for a moment that I had a fit of anger. And Tony? Well, he basically had a hard time composing himself for the rest of the class, as he kept giggling.
It became customary during that summer for Tony to check in on me and see how I was doing. He’d invite me to go do things, be it a movie, a dinner with his family or to drive around with his other friends until we end up at his favorite golf course at 10:30pm at night, so he can try to putt a hole in one in the pitch black. Tony was always willing to take chances. Me…I was the one saying “Oh no, I can’t do that.”
The end of summer came quickly and while I was approaching my second round of radiation, Tony was getting ready to go off to school. For his send-off to college gift, I gave him a beer mug. I knew he’d use it. On it, I put the phrase “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid,” which was what I always uttered when he was recounting what mayhem he had gotten into over the weekend, as if to remind him, every time he took a drink, he was getting just that.
Now, I’m not saying that jokes are the be-all and end-all solution to getting through cancer. They help, but there’s something more. That something more is exactly what Tony and other people like him were doing. Getting me out of the house, going to a movie, bringing me cake…whatever was normal, still was. Life continues and even the simplest of activities got me away from thinking or talking about cancer.
I didn’t want to talk about cancer all the time, and it was nice that my friends had the ability to just let me be me. They did learn more as treatment progressed, maybe more than they wanted, but I liked the fact that I could share what I wanted, when I felt I was ready.
So, these were my friends that I knew and who helped me cope, but who did I draw on to help me develop the “attitude” for survival? Is there such a thing?
Check out my next Rhabdomyosarcoma Journal of Part #2: Inspiration…