Friday, March 29, 2013

Emotionally Hungover

I lost a friend to breast cancer yesterday--a Facebook friend, someone I met through the Young Survival Coalition's board and never in person, but a friend nonetheless, and a mom to two beautiful daughters. I spent a good portion of my day at work being thankful for high cubicle walls, so that no one could see me sobbing behind them at my desk.

And then, as I was looking at kitchen faucets in Home Depot last night, news popped up in my email that another Stage IV woman I'd reached out to a couple of weeks ago had passed away as well. Her cancer had actually been caught in the early stages, but had been completely unresponsive to any forms of treatment. I wanted to drop to the floor and rip my wig off right there in the middle of the store, but I held it together, at least until I got home.

To complete the hat trick, a friend posted this news item about a local guy who lost his fight to colon cancer after gaining national attention for standing up to Big Insurance (and winning that battle). He was so brave. It turns out, cancer doesn't care.

It was not a good day to be a young cancer patient.

I remember my grandmother once said something about how hard it was to get older because you start losing so many friends. (On the other hand, as my dad always says, getting older beats the alternative.) My grandmother was probably in her 70s when she made that statement, and incidentally lived until she was 93. I vaguely empathized with what she was saying, but what did I really know? I was in high school. I certainly never thought I'd have to start facing that reality in my 30s. Wherever you are, Grammie, I get it. It hurts, and it's scary as hell.

Just when I thought I'd rounded a corner and was managing my cancer-related emotions okay--even talking to my therapist about non-cancer-related things like parenting and how to incorporate more date nights with my husband--a day like yesterday comes along and knocks me on my ass again.

I know people die all the time, and it's a fact of life that all of us--eventually--will. But I always imagined it as it happened for both of my grandparents (two are still alive) and all of my great-grandparents: peacefully, in their sleep, and in their eighties or nineties. That seems like the natural order of things, the way things should be, the way I grew up believing they would be. I do not want to--nor do I know how to--wrap my head around the fact that young, otherwise healthy people are getting cancer and dying for no reason that makes sense. That I could be one of them. Fuck you, cancer.


Quinn and I fell asleep watching Cars (for probably the three thousandth time) around 8 o'clock last night. Chris was at rugby; I didn't even hear him come home. I slept for ten hours and woke up feeling slightly hungover. An emotional hangover? Turns out, it's possible.

We have about a dozen family members in town this weekend for a mini-family reunion, and the festivities start tonight. The restaurant we're meeting at has these soft pretzel balls that you dip in provolone fondue, and I'm looking forward to curing my hangover with them. (Hey, you don't come here for nutrition advice, do you?) Tomorrow night is homemade lasagna--Grandma Campisano's own recipe--and Easter Sunday will begin with ten kids hunting for eggs and prizes in Chris' aunt's backyard.

I could draw parallels to Jesus rising from the dead, but I think it would be sacrilegious to compare myself to Jesus (right?). Let's just say I'm celebrating life this weekend. Because what more is there than family and food and a few prizes hidden along the way?

Also, this. This is what keeps me going. This is stronger than cancer.

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