I wrote this for a cancer support group, but thought others might relate so sharing here as well.

The exercise was to reflect on a quote and how it relates to our own cancer experience. I chose:

I didn’t just want a perfect ending; I wanted a perfect everything. Perfect house and life and job and vacations. Perfect body and hair and skin. Perfect relationships and friendships. Perfect marriage and kids and pets. It took a cancer diagnosis to loosen my white-knuckled grip on a bunch of shit that I couldn’t control no matter how tightly I grasped the steering wheel.

If I’m dead, will it matter if my house is clean? Will I care if someone sees the dust under my bed and thinks I was a bad housekeeper? Do I want to be remembered as a good housekeeper or a housekeeper at all? If I reach my goal weight and am sick and tired, will I drag myself out of bed and don a bikini to sit in the shade and revel in my thinness? Is being thin something I want or something I’ve been taught I should aspire to? Is it worthwhile to strive for idealized relationships that exist {mostly} within fictional families when I have a handful of fantastic friends who stand by me through thick and thin? Do I need family members to care when my friends send prayers and good vibes that the nurses will hit the vein on the first try and that I won’t have any side effects?

Having the “worst case scenario” come to fruition a few times via the drug overdose of one brother and the suicide of another, I lived many years not only convinced that terrible things could happen but also preparing for the inevitability of the next terrible thing. My slightly younger self wrote: I feel a compulsion to write about sadness lest it sneak up when I’m not paying attention and steal my joy. I like to keep the darkness out in front of me where I can keep an eye on it. And yet, when my mortality was the “thing” in question, I stopped rehearsing grief. I relinquished the notion that I could predict and control the outcome and found a level of comfort in uncertainty for the first time.

Having just passed the six-month mark of living with a cancer diagnosis, I’m aware of my path diverging again. Cancer wasn’t something I regularly thought about. Reoccurrence is something I’ll never have the luxury not to think about. Life doesn’t have to be either/or; it can be both/and.

My definition of a perfect ending has changed. The idea of perfection, in fact, rarely steals my joy these days. I delight in simplicity. A cozy pair of socks. A candle. The way my little pup is curled up next to me every morning. Twinkling lights. A good cup of coffee. Baby squirrels playing. A new bird song. Noticing wonder instead of expecting tragedy. Am I in the middle or the end or the end of the middle or the beginning of the end? Does it matter? All we really have is this moment.

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•

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