Most mornings I wake between three and four am. My body tricks me, rousts me to use the bathroom. Within moments the fear I am incubating rises to the surface. I remember the circumstances of my life. Yes, of course, this is who I am, this is what’s ahead.
Fear pins me to the bed. It clamps and grips my chest. It rises in my throat and chokes me. Each breath becomes deliberate.
I am forced to revisit the source of my fear and all its possible outcomes. My future unfolds in excruciating detail. I will lose my breast, my womanhood, my life. I will hurt and let down everyone who cares for me. I will be unrealized. I will suffer. I am suffering now.
Cancer consumes me. It spends my money, and nourishes itself on peace. It’s a side-hustle that wants to be a full-time gig.
At the oncologist’s office, I refuse to be weighed or have my picture taken. Politely, of course. I still want them to help me. It can’t be all their way.
I’m clinging to this body. I want to hold my ground, never let anyone remove parts of me again. Even as I grasp, it changes under me. Hot flashes sneak up, forcing me to look around the room and see if anyone else is too warm. No, just me.
It’s strange and untethering to be in a body with its own agenda. Things are afoot, and I am not invited to plan the mayhem. My body does what it likes, and I can’t keep my footing.
I’m not ready to go. It’s not about my potential. Think of what the world would be missing! No, my promise isn’t the issue. This is a selfish, grasping matter.
Plus, I don’t know how to die properly. No one has shown me how.
The world will move on just fine without me. New people are being made all the time, they will take up the space I leave behind. The world won’t know about the complicated scarf I knitted, my good haircuts, or the lovers I made laugh with my sly jokes.
It isn’t reasonable to cling to living, I can’t beat the system. But, I don’t care about any of that. I want what I want. I am a toddler who cannot be reasoned with.
The fear. You’d think I’d be more adept by now, an expert fear-wrangler. I’m nothing of the sort. Fear drags me by the foot, and I squirm like a helpless insect. All legs, and no power.
I’ve had cancer twice and still don’t know how to live on borrowed time.