My post-cancer years can be best summed up with a single word: survival. I survived a horrible disease. I survived the side-effects of my treatment. I survived the financial devastation of medical bills and forced unemployment. I survived the emotional damage such an ordeal wrecks upon yourself and your loved ones. I survived my body betraying me.
Notice I don’t use the word thrived. I made it through the gauntlet, but I’m far from restored. Like a man rescued on the edge of a desert inches from death I’m pouring water back into my body with shaking arms. I still carry around the pieces of my former life. Every so often I shuffle through the jagged shards looking for something resembling the familiar, but I always toss them back inside the bag.
I’ve considered these last two years my hibernation. I’m holding out until Spring returns to my world and I can rejoice in the explosion of new growth. But it has been a very long Winter for me. I’m struggling to stay warm and notice the cold more each day. It reveals itself in innocuous ways such as a sudden listlessness or unexplained lack of focus. The symptoms creep up on me and compound into a general malaise.
I’ve noticed these changes. Not at first, but now they’re undeniable. My hibernation has slowly transformed into a starvation of self. My life has not reconstituted itself despite my efforts, so instead I continue in a low-powered state of being and with nothing feeding my fires the hunger turns into hollowness. I watch the starvation progress like a slow-motion accident, the horrible outcome is apparent, but I can’t prevent it, at least not as I am now.
I pour myself out into the world hoping it jumpstarts my rejuvenation. Nothing has yet sparked. So I wait. And I starve.
Photo © Gabriel Novo