anger · change · laughter · life

What’s My Age Again?

I stopped by the optometry office on my way out of the
medical lab. It was the last week of December and I thought it would be a good day to
get my labs drawn, test my blood, get some confirming news for the new year,
good or bad, at least it’s truth.
At the eye sales desk, he told me that my glasses order was last filled in 2011, that I’d had the glasses I’m wearing for nearly 3 years.
That people usually reorder every year or two.
And it reminds me that I lost a year. 
I was diagnosed with leukemia a week before my 31st
birthday. I don’t
remember it much, who was there, if we sang — I think we did — except that in my threadbare
hospital gown, I opined, Next year, instead of cancer, can we get brunch
instead? – And we did.
But in many ways, I feel like I didn’t actually live my 31st
year (or 32nd if you’re being technical). Suddenly I find myself reminding
myself, Yes, I’m 32 now. 31 sort of did and didn’t happen.
know that a few years from now, these missing months won’t seem as missing, won’t feel as
real, except sometimes it strikes me that I spent half a year in a hospital. That when I
consider, “last year at this time,” I was bald and packing for my 4th round of chemo.
And now it’s done. And it’s weird.
When I try to express this weirdness in a way that might make
sense to other people, I say that it’s like my life took this enormous detour, but
now I’m suddenly back to where I parted with the road, and that side road doesn’t
even exist. 
How do you go back to “normal” after that? It’s not to give the event credence it doesn’t deserve, or to use my cancer as a talisman of pain
or suffering, or even of validation – it’s just to say, Yes, it actually
happened, and yet, so what?
So what. It’s a hard thing to say about cancer, without
sounding callous. But, really, what does it mean now?
What has it meant this past year? That’s easy to answer –
everything. Everything I do is in response to it, even though “nothing has
changed.” That’s the weirdness of it. I work at the same job. I sleep in the
same apartment. I watch the same t.v. shows.
Many things I’ve done differently, many things I’ve started,
tried, done, seen, been. But, when does its relevance fade – does its relevance
fade? If everything I do, which I assure you I measure against my cancer stick,
is in response to it, when do I stop mentioning it, when does it stop being a
significant part of who I express myself to be. When I stop mentioning it out loud,
which sometimes I note I do, and sometimes I pointedly don’t, … what does that
mean, if anything?
I text a cute guy, after actually asking aloud, “if today was my last day on Earth…” I drink a badly mis-measured version of turmeric tea, because it’s listed in
Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. I’m
stewing marrow bones in a crock pot right now because I’ve read they have immune
boosting properties.
I flew a plane, got into a band, went to Hawaii, because I
had cancer.
I bought a car, had sex with that cute guy, built my
first bedframe because I had cancer.
I saw Book of Mormon because I had cancer, and stopped
talking to my dad because of it, too.
I measure how much time I waste or spend on Netflix against
cancer. I measure how much sleep I get against cancer. I won’t read bad books, but
I’ll read damnyouautocorrect until it hurts to laugh any more.
What does it mean, though? Is it relevant? To you. To you,
man on the street, do you care what makes me laugh a little freer? Do you care
why I eat organic eggs, or buy gold boots, or notice the moon? Does it matter to you that everything has changed and nothing is different?
Probably not.
So, what about the missing year – if it wrought all of these
changes, it wasn’t missing, right? That’s the point, right?
Sure. Maybe. 
Still, I wish I could have gotten new glasses,
and gone without the eviscerating fear.

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