Many things have led me to chronicle my life’s journey. I used to joke that I could write a book entitled “The life of a cancer survivor and unwed mother.” The truth is….these two aspects of my life evoke such opposite emotions from the community at large The first part of the title would just evoke pity, and the second portion of the title would really provoke a lot of conservatives, not to mention embarrass my parents. However, my interpretation of the two is exactly alike: they are my life, raw, uninvited, invigorating life. I cannot be happier that both have happened to me. I do not compare my daughter to cancer, but both have taught me so many things about life that were not clear to me beforehand.
Chapter 1 “Cancer: you have it, but it’s the good kind”
I was a very sheltered child. I had never been to public school until college. I did not attend some short skirted catholic all girls’ school, but something much worse, a school that was Christian conservative. In grade school I attended a school where all the girls in the class had to get down on their knees….sounds so barbaric and sexual right? ….for the teachers to make sure the hem of our dresses touched the floor. Heaven forbid we even wear shorts. “Coolots” were reserved for the fantastic field days that were held once a year and, even the cheerleading uniforms were knee length.
I finally was able to convince my parents to switch me to a less conservative, yet still Christian, school which I was allowed to wear shorts as short as 2 inches above the knee!!! For me as a preteen, this was freedom. It was a larger school with a few more boys. I think my total class was 30 or so students
I had a best friend, one of only two or three I’ve ever had in my life, in the 9th grade. Yes, we were a little dark but the grunge scene was happening and we were just hanging out, listening to Weezer, nothing harmful to other human beings…well, unless you are with PETA. I wrote a note once to my best friend about the emotions I felt when killing a bug with bug spray, when we were finished with our note passing in class, I threw the note away. Little did we know that the preppy pretty girl plucked the note from the trash and I’m sure was very disturbed and shared this information with someone. My parents hated my best friend….she was a “terrible” influence. What they didn’t understand was that it was as much about the time period in my life, not just her, but my life in general that was causing me to act the way I did. I saw something outside of the ivory tower. Something real. Something people who have tidy little lives and are busy hiding from the truth never will admit. I had never seen life even in a public school. I had never seen real poverty, sadness or realities that some children deal with daily. The most I ever saw was a girl in my class whose grandparents raised her and lived on the wrong side of town. She still had food, clothes, shelter and people who loved her.
So I was curious - curious about a lot of things that had been kept from me in a small southern conservative town in a private school as a teenager. My parents forced me to stop spending time with my best friend and to go see a counselor who reminded me more of my grandmother than someone I could talk about the realities of the world with. How could I talk to her about boys, feelings, thoughts, sexual and otherwise??? How could I talk to her about anything from my heart when I was made to sit there in front of her? I might as well have been a dancing monkey. I told her, as honestly as I could, what I had to say and not much more.
I got over my little “rebellious” spell- if killing a bug and taking pleasure in it is rebellious. There was more to it than that, I had a boyfriend who was not so great and was lying a lot to my parents, something they had never seen before from me. I know I had done other things that escape my mind but I’m pretty sure it was my overall attitude that landed me in counseling. Anyway, I shaped up, forgot my best friend and became tight with a missionary kid from
It wasn’t long before I had the itch to be free from the sham again. This time it landed me in the principal’s office. First time in my life thank you very much. I will never understand how what I do sexually, or not even sexually…how bout we say oral sexually, outside of school grounds, not on school time, is any of the principal’s business. Or how is it appropriate to trick me into coming into the principal’s office after school thinking I would be helping her with some tasks only to find my parents in the office waiting for me. Can we say Ambush? I would have had a lot more respect for the principal had she taken me aside and chatted with me before involving my parents…or by staying out of it completely. Because I was a co-captain on the cheerleading team I had to give up my spot on the squad (boo fucking hooo). I only cheered because I had to get into
So the resentment toward my parents and the “waiting it out” period was really hard for me. I liked to be wild and crazy on a small scale. I only tried weed once ever. I did hang out with a few drug dealers and it was so interesting to see what life was like outside the box my parents built for me. No offense to them, I would be dead right now if not for their intervention sometimes. They did the best they knew, how could they know what I was thinking?…I never talked to them, I couldn’t. We were too different, approaching the world with such fundamental differences of opinion. I tried several times to fit into their box for me but I was never happy that way.
The next friend I had was crazy. We were like gasoline and fire. I was crazy and so was she. There was nothing stopping us from all craziness. Or so I thought.
I was working at a pottery shop where people create personalized pottery of all sorts. Kids had birthday parties there, old women came to create something fun, and people of all sorts came to create keepsakes or artwork. Several weeks prior I had felt a huge knot on the front left of my neck. We were singing in chorus, one of my favorite classes. Music had always been one of my escapes. You could always find me with my headphones if we were in the car. Singing/music relaxed me and I was in a melodical daze as my hand brushed across the knot. I felt very odd. “That’s weird” I thought. “Oh well.” And I kept singing and thought nothing of it. I showed my mom later on and we went to the doctor.
I mentioned earlier that I had only tried weed once, well it just so happen to coincide in the same week as my doctor’s appointment. Having no medical knowledge at the age of 17 I was freaking out. They took a blood sample from me at the office. I almost passed out from fear that they would know that I had tried marijuana. Everyone around me thought I was afraid of needles or needed to eat something. Cat scratch fever or mono probably…stated the doctor. I got some pills and went home. Weeks later I had more knots and the big one hadn’t shrunk at all. I was still oblivious to the signs and symptoms of cancer, and I was busy plotting out wild and crazy things to do with my gasoline and fire friend.
The needle biopsy was painful. My mother watched as the biopsy was performed in the surgeon’s office. “What is the fluid like?” my mom asked. “It’s solid” stated the surgeon. Because I was 17 and the surgeon was such good friends with my dad, I was not the first to know. My parents were informed and then my dad drove to get me from work and deliver the news. When he walked in the door I thought I was on my way to boarding school for something they had found out. I seriously thought my life had ended and they were going to disown me for being such a horrid child.
At home they sat me on the bed and told me I had cancer. HOLY CRAP!&??? My life is like a movie….I thought. “We are going in an hour to talk to the doctor” my parents stated. They proceeded to tell me that the cells that were identified were in the lymphoma family. “Can I go online and research lymphoma?” I asked. “No, just wait until we talk with the doctor.” they replied. That hour was one of the scariest of my life. I cannot imagine any other situation as terrifying in my existence. I played a song on my CD player, alone in my room. “It Is Well With My Soul” and in that moment it was well with my soul. At that time, God was all I had. (which is ironic now since I have no idea what I believe!!!)