In Reinventing Eve, Kim Chernik writes about the brave women who descend into Hel (one "l") and return (they wear a Hel-met - no kidding). In Surfacing, Margaret Atwood's main character "dies" and spends time in a world of the dead before coming back to her life, reborn.
It occurred to me today that I've been approaching living after cancer, living under the threat of cancer, all wrong.
I got a phone call this afternoon from my oncologist's office. When I heard, "This is Dr. X's office," my immediate impulse was to panic. 'Why could they possibly be calling me? They never do that. The only reason they could be calling now is to tell me that something is very, very wrong - right?'
In fact, they were calling to invite me to a special retreat for breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivors - food, massage, tai chi, and speakers on survivorship. All in all, a lovely day.
But the phone call still made the contents of my stomach sour. Thinking about cancer leads me down a path I don't want to go, and so I've tried to pretend it never happened - yes, I have these scars, but really, it's just a misunderstanding. Yes, I take these pills, but I am healthy, damn it. I hide from it and feel great, but every single time - *every* time - I am caught out by a doctor appointment, a change in treatment, a new celebrity who has been diagnosed, or, most recently, a new feature film about someone with cancer - I panic.
I'm tired of panicking. I feel like an animal that has been abused. I am cringing already, before the loud noise and the kick.
I think the problem is that I need to integrate this experience, somehow. I need to learn how to live with this in a way that isn't fearful, but that doesn't erase it, either.
So, despite my gut instinct to run screaming from anything pink, from anything at all suggestive of cancer, I think I will go to this retreat and try to figure out how to place these two worlds together and move forward.