Cancer at Twenty

How am I supposed to feel? Every day it changes, and every day there is a different voice in my head telling me how I should go about climbing the mountain looming over my head. Most 20 year olds are going to college, traveling, sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel of their young lives. And that’s a good reason as to why some days I feel like I’m being robbed. Once? Once is enough to get the picture. Cancer sucks; if the disease doesn’t kill you, then the chemo will give you a slow and painful death without a shred of dignity in the process. If you get past the initial treatment—or beat it, as people like to mislabel the event of sitting in a bed and dosing yourself in sickening chemicals—then you’re left wondering from time to time just how many years the toxic drugs took off your life.

This sounds negative, I know. My positive attitude has been hard to find as of late, as a nauseating decision looms out on the waters of my future. It’s a hurricane, and I have to decide whether or not to face it head-on or take the road less traveled. I’ve been here before, and I did my part. I left with minimal scars and a good testimony. I suppose this is the real challenge now, as I look in the mirror and ask myself why I am the one. As I mourn the loss of another year of ‘the best years of my life.’ As I pray for the answers I cannot find myself.

I’ll be so honest with you, the most honest. A form of honesty you won’t get from me if you came up and asked me how I was—or, when I do open up, only to get uncomfortable glances and a heavy discernment to just shut up in response.

I don’t want to lose my hair, to act as this aching, hurting creature with nothing to hide behind for months. I don’t want to lose my fertility and watch every woman around me bask in the glow of their baby bumps, their babies, their blessed lives as mothers, while I stand here stuck with nothing left. I don’t want these casualties of war to be living here inside me; the numb shoulder, the scar on my chest, the tingling fingers and secondary cancers.

And the worst part of it all is that the easy way out doesn’t exist. God had me in mind for this particular trial, not once but twice. That is how much faith God put in me. And I want to do right by my savior, my family and myself. So why is it so hard to find that strength inside of me? The cavity of my chest is filled with a wallowing despair that just washes onto shore over and over again. Can I press the skip button and be somewhere far away from this chapter in my life? Can I wake up tomorrow and look in the mirror at a healthy, glowing woman? Can these dark circles turn into starry nights by the ocean with my true love in arms reach? That all seems so far away—impossible really—in the face of the black hole I’m peering into.

Recently, my time has been well spent having breakdowns at midnight as I run cold fingers through my pink hair—or, better yet, laying out the baby clothes I’ve bought on my duvet and imagining a child with green eyes like mine filling up the arm and leg holes. Why do I feel so foolish for having these dreams? Like I’m playing pretend in wanting nice, happy things in this game of Russian roulette with my health. Put the chemo in your body, and rob yourself of all its gifts. Go against the doctors wishes, then relapse and send yourself to an early grave.

As it draws nearer and nearer, I wonder how much of myself will be left this time around. I’m not young enough to find any of this remotely exciting anymore. All I see is a harsh reality painted, but a stroke different from the tongue of each individual around me. I look at my reflection in the glare of a store window and let myself know that this, this is what letting go of all control is like. But which is worse: living under the illusion of control we give ourselves, or actively knowing that everything is out of our hands? Ignorance is bliss. Isn’t that what they say?

I mourn who I was, the hopeful girl who had finally shed her image of The Cancer Survivor. It’s as if those words were in italics under the title of my life, and had just began to fade into something more profound. If just for a fleeting moment, I floated in the illusion of control; dancing on the edge of the rug that was about to be pulled out from under my feet. But I don’t know her anymore. I shake that version of myself off, stepping away from the ashes and running, screaming, for the woman I am to become.

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by JanuaryFiction

Hi, I'm Mariah McIntyre! I'm currently twenty years old and residing in the mid-west. Ever since I was two years old I've been writing my emotions and the depths of my imagination onto paper to share with the world. I'm constantly jotting down my creative view through my day to day life, and am currently working on finishing a book I'm writing. Another interest of mine is photography and in 2017 I invested in equipment that would allow me to further pursue a career in photography along side my passion for the written word. I love connecting with people through my photos, writing and travel; I hope I can continue to make an impact on others while learning self growth along the way. This year is my biggest journey yet as I face a relapse in Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In the midst of this huge chapter in my life, I have more to say and express to the world than ever before.

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