Friday, January 29, 2010

Do Over, explicit version

Prepare for swear words.

Do we really get "do overs"? We don't have to wait for life altering circumstances to call a "do over" do we? But I think most of us don't consider it without some traumatic or big event. All seems to go along without much thought until the wheels fall off.... Cancer. WTF, universe?

I think I'll call a "do over." Just turning 42 this weekend, I should be in great health once I heal up (inshallah, knock on wood, etc.), I have a great job at a great little college, two beautiful kids, family that loves me, and too many hilarious, smart friends to count. Can't wait to start running again. Camping. Sailing. Bonfiring. Looking at all the stars. Running some more, through the woods. No more fucking bingo, don't worry. Cancer be damned.

It's weird, though. I feel like a ghost. I was warned about this feeling, it's some sort of survivor reaction. Out in public people rush by, work ID badges swinging in the breeze, carrying their styrofoam lunch containers, talking talking talking talking about focus groups and sales numbers and market share blah blah fuckin blah.

I feel like I could reach out as they go by and my hand would pass through them like I don't exist. Or they don't. So surreal. This is part of the "survivor" mentality I read about. Hard to explain. Alternative universes again, perhaps.

Yes, it can be annoying to hear people talk about "survivor" feelings and the whole cult of cancer survivorship. I do have this guilt about having such feelings. Was my cancer serious enough, was I sick enough to earn these feelings? Does a medieval-sounding surgery plus19 days in the hospital = the 3 or 4 rounds of nasty chemo that others get? Is it too early to consider myself a survivor? Will I be sick again? It can be confusing.

But as for those feelings, I'm having them, and it's not that I think all others are not alive or not in the moment, I'm not that egotistical (feel free to disagree!). And it's not that I think that us scar belly sneetches are better than those with none on thars, or have more important things to do, it's just that so many of those people seem "not real" to me, or that they're not on the same plane. Not everyone, though. Cab driver the other day, a black gentleman who must have been 80, seemed real. Talking about how in 1955 when he came to Houston the medical center here was 2 hospitals, and how he knows a guy who had his tongue rebuilt here a few years ago; that cab driver guy seemed real to me, on the same plane. I should have tapped his shoulder to be sure.

I see my fellow ghosts wandering the halls here, shuffling in slippers and gowns and dragging their IV poles like Jacob Marley dragged his chains. We all acknowledge each other; smiles or glances or "hey" or "keep walking!" are our little ways of sharing who we are and what we are experiencing, as the "real" people fly by us. Marley admitted he made his own chains and they were deserved--not sure what we ghosts did to get those IV poles. My obvious chains are gone, but I still have the bandages and tubes, a slightly open and gross incision on my stomach, and the slightly bent over shuffle when I walk.

Anyhow, I'm calling a "do over".... Only 42, dammit. Happy birthday to me. Fuck cancer, and fuck the universe's bullshit. I'm a ghost already anyway.


Rachel said...

I want a do-over too.
*Fuck Cancer
*It's never too early to call yourself a survivor.
*I wish we'd have had our surgeries at the same time so we could pass each other in the hallway or shuffle to the other's room to wax philosophic about cancer ghosts and alternate universes. I can TALK about that better than I can write about it.
*I sat nodding my head through your whole post. You're totally right. We are ghosts... notice how ghosts are juuuuust a little wiser?
*And though you didn't want to be a member (neither did I)- Welcome to the cult.

Now for the paddle.................

Rachel said...

Oh yeah.. and Happy Birthday!! :P

Claudia said...

OK, so maybe you're not in the best of spirits for your birthday this year - but my offer of Margaritas on the beach still stands. We'll just celebrate twice as much next year in Key West.

Lisa said...

I want to suggest a book called "Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality" by Anthony de Mello. Although I am not surviving cancer at this moment, I am surviving other things, and I think what you have experienced is what I am reading about in this book. It's called "waking up." You are naming it being a ghost, but it is actually the other people with their styrofoam lunch containers and market report and such who are asleep. You, my friend, have a bad case of having woken up. So, better to wake up at 42 than after you are dead. Congratulatinos, and Happy Birth Day, Dan.

Joe Botana said...

Hey, Dan - it is good to see you angry, man!! Righteous anger, properly focused, is a powerful force. That force will help you give your disease the bird and lead you to many more and much happier birthdays. You may call yourself a ghost, but that beats the heck out of being a zombie -- which is what most of us are until we get the "wake up call." Luke 12:16-21 is a stern admonishment to those who fail to place importance on that which has transcendental value. I doubt that, having gone thru this great trial, you will ever lose focus again. THAT is the best kind of do-over. Happy Birthday, Dan. Praying for you as are other friends.
Joe B.

Unknown said...

This will definitely be one of your most memorable birthdays, that's for sure.

I do want to wish you a Happy Birthday, and give a virtual toast to "complete cytoreduction".

Happy Birthday, Dan.


Unknown said...

The book AWARENESS that Lisa recommends is a wonderful book. My brother found it during a mid-life crisis and recommended it to me - hope you can add it to your list.
Keep up the good energy :)