Q: How do you stay positive?? I'd be a mess all the time. How do you just live life daily?
A: I remember reading an article when I was a senior in college that featured a young woman with cervical cancer, who ultimately died from the disease. The article was written lovingly by a close friend. I still remember the picture of the girl lying in a hospital bed, wearing a "Cancer sucks," tshirt, and sticking out her bottom lip.
I could never go through something like that, something so hard and scary and sad. I couldn't handle it. That's what I thought then, at 21. Little did I know that three years later my boyfriend would be diagnosed with cancer. And four years after that, I would too.
Reader, I handled it.
One thing I've learned is that all of us, all us living things, have inner reserves of unknown strength and depth.
Part of it is the fact that anything can become normal if you do it enough. Chemo, surgeries, whatever. (And I mean, I love being a regular, but when they start recognizing you at the ER it's a problem.)
There's another part too. Think of it as an inner Brit just taking over. Your run of the mill, stiff upper lip, Keep Calm, Carry On dame in a mack. (Helen Mirren or Judi Dench? I'll leave that to you.) In other words, you just get on with it. I never had a moment where I wondered if I could handle was being thrown at me. There was no choice. It was just my life now.
Did I freak out/do I still freak out sometimes? Hell yes. But not like I imagined I would. I didn't run around every second during chemo thinking about the fact that I was bald and looked like a skinned Idaho potato, for instance. It's not because I'm tough, it's a coping mechanism that just kicks in. It's a fail safe in the brain.
The staying positive thing is interesting. I feel like we're told that's really important, but I kind of hate it. I don't consider myself an optimist. A big part of getting through everything was letting myself feel what I felt when I felt it. (Kind of like Harry in the beginning of WHMS.) I didn't get caught in the positivity trap when scary/sad/angry thoughts came in. I let myself feel them. And I found a lot of solace through expressing those feelings, especially here.
And I had a lot of amazing support from family and friends. Shoutout to my support group homies from YSC and BCO! Oh, and a damn good therapist. And Ativan. And the Drakes Coffee Cakes I bought for an absurd amount of money on eBay after they stopped making them. And whisky.