There’s a story about Salvador Dali that he once asked to sit on a sofa with a broken spring. The discomfort, he said, would remind him what an extraordinary act sitting is.
I think this is a pretty ridiculous philosophy. Sitting is only extraordinary if you can’t do it. The same is true for standing, walking, scratching, blinking, or a countless number of things we do so regularly we don’t even think about them. Awareness of your body is a good thing, as I’ve learned, but making yourself miserable is unnecessary. Be aware of your body when there’s something wrong with it. Otherwise if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
As I said a mundane act is only extraordinary if you can’t do it, and then it does become extraordinary if you’re suddenly able to do it, or if you could once do it and have recovered the ability. So the other night opening a can of Dr. Pepper with just my fingers was extraordinary. It was extraordinary because it was something I hadn’t been able to do in months, and was something I thought I’d never be able to do again. Part of my chemotherapy cocktail was a drug called Cisplatin that made my fingers tingly and numb and caused a couple of my fingernails to fall out. (Thanks my friend Jamie Zoe Givens for recommending B6, which helped.)
Life after cancer isn’t something I’ve heard much about. Maybe this is because for too many people there is no life after cancer. And for the survivors talking about the experience may be unpleasant. It’s also something a lot of people simply don’t want to hear about, and that’s okay. Before I was diagnosed what happens to someone who’s successfully been treated for cancer wouldn’t have been something I could relate to either. This is a reminder to myself of what I lost, what I thought I had lost permanently, and what I’ve regained.
More importantly this is for people who are facing chemo or other treatments and who have no idea what to expect on the other side. I hope your experience will be like mine. I hope your chemo will also be boring.
Some other things I thought I’d never be able to do again:
Walk more than one-hundred feet without stopping to rest.
Go outside without a hat or other head covering.
Live without fear.
I’m still working on that last one, because it’s a delicate balancing act. On the one hand I have to be aware of potential dangers. My body has been through some major changes. It’s been like puberty, but not as much fun. There are downsides. I hadn’t had a migraine since I was thirteen. Now I’ve had two in the last three months. And I have to be aware that every minor ache or pain could be a warning sign.
I’ve also recovered so much, and I have to be aware to be grateful for those things. Just because it ain’t broke doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted.