Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Parallel Universe

The world can be divided into cancer and non-cancer people. People who have never been touched by cancer live blissfully unaware of death. Those who have cancer or even those who are close to someone with cancer have to face a completely new world -- a world that looks the same as it did before but is really almost just a dream because it can all be taken away.

Some cancer people liken it to a parallel universe. A lot of everyday things remain the same A.D. (After Diagnosis) as they were B.C. (Before Cancer). I still pay bills, play with my kids, go grocery shopping. I still yell at dangerous drivers on the road, argue with my husband, lose my patience with the kids. All very much as they were B.C. So most of the time, I live in the B.C. universe with everyone else.

But several times a day, I’m reminded that I don’t belong in this universe anymore. I’m bald. I have scars on my chest where my breasts used to be. I swallow 35 pills a day. For breakfast, I drink vitamin concoctions. I have a port implanted under the skin on my chest, with a tube that runs into the main artery to my heart. But all of these things have almost become natural to me now. They don’t really scream, “You have cancer! You’re gonna die!” at me anymore. They just let me know I have a new diet and a new look. That is, until I stop to think about it.

The times I really feel I’m living in a different universe is when I think about the future. I was in a shopping mall recently and found some clothes on sale, so I tried on an armful of clothes. Then I put them all back. It suddenly seemed silly to buy news clothes. They might just go to waste.

Tony let the kids eat chocolate-covered ice cream today. I started to fret that my kids are going to grow up on junk food if I’m not around. These are the kinds of silly everyday things that scream to me that I have cancer. If I can’t even be around to make sure my kids eat nutritious food, how am I going to ensure that they grow up to be thoughtful, kind, loving, confident, strong, and independent adults? How will I make sure that they even remember me?

These are the kinds of thoughts that run through a cancer person’s head in the parallel universe we call Cancer World. Non-cancer people see an overly protective mother complaining about her kids having too much sugar in their diet. Cancer people see a mother who knows she might not be around much longer to watch her kids eat ice cream, tuck them in at night, watch them go out on their first date, get married and have kids of their own. And all this because of a little ice cream... This is something non-cancer people can’t understand.

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