Rules seem to be the main theme of having cancer. Don’t overwork yourself, don’t sleep too much during the day, don’t drink, don’t, don’t, don’t! Most of the time the rules are conflicting. I hear a lot of, “do not push yourself too far, unless you feel up to it,” “Stay away from spicy food unless you can eat it,” and “Avoid human contact, but do not isolate yourself.” However, the main rule-and one that everyone cannot seem to keep driving home- is don’t get sick. Chemotherapy knocks out your immune system so it is really easy to get sick. This results in a number of ridiculous rules mostly concerning the preparation and eating of food. They want me to eat vegetables but they all need to be cooked. Heaven forbid there be lingering bacteria on a pepper or a green bean, or, gasp, what about a little bit of dirt on a potato? I am supposed to peel all fruit with waxy coating before I eat it and avoid fruits that have surfaces that are not easily washed. Preparing food is especially daunting as I am supposed to make sure all surfaces are perfectly clean. How in the world am I supposed to clean everything if I am not supposed to come in contact with most cleaning supplies or the objects that are meant to be cleaned? This is madness. To hell with it, I am going to clean anyway. Not only am I going to clean, but I am going to eat raw vegetables and thoroughly enjoy doing it in a stick-it-to-the-man sort of way. That’s right, eating a salad is now an act of rebellion.
I view most of the things I do as acts of rebellion. It is so easy to give into expectations of exhaustion and sickness. I refuse to let myself give in. I have begun to do things. I am reading more, I sew, I cook and I have become increasingly more involved in my community through volunteering. All of these things I do as rebellion. Just because I am sick does not mean that I can’t. I am so tired of being told that I cannot do things or that I should not be capable of acting on my desires. I CAN do them and I will. So now, every single time I go for a walk or bake cookies or even fold the laundry I do it prove them wrong. Who are they? They are the doubters and the rule makers. I have to say it is quite fun to prove them wrong. I am doing well. In fact, one could say I am the poster child for chemotherapy. I am getting less worn down by my treatments as I become more used to dealing with and responding to them. My white blood cell count is ridiculously high for someone in this stage of chemotherapy and Sven has continued to shrink. He now resembles a large, squashed piece of taffy. Yes I am bald, I feel like have the flu, my skin is dry, and migraines continue to plague me at the most random times, but I refuse to let this get me down. I am a cancer anarchist.
My acts of rebellion alone are not the only things that keep me going. So many people help me to keep up my stubborn nature. I see their help as yet more acts of defiance. Every word of encouragement helps to keep me going. Every kind act and every little bit of compassion I see helps to propel me forward into my treatment with increasing resolve. I have an amazing grandmother who never fails to send me an inspirational card each week and friends that check on me with a regularity that is almost startling. One in particular who always Skypes with me even though I know she has better things to do. I live in a community filled with prayers and reassurance. I am never going to forget how my elementary school principal reached out to hug me in church this last Sunday when I broke down during “On Eagles Wings” (This song was way too much to handle in my current over-emotional state right now. Seriously, look it up!). My family is awesome. My aunts frequently call me, text me, or sit with me on my bad days. I have a wonderful cousin who walks with me regularly to help combat the effects of chemotherapy. There is an aunt living in Vermont who periodically calls to check on me and I have a friend in Texas who never fails to do so either. Every day someone does something surprising and wonderful. I am privy to so many acts of kindness that I cannot even begin to list them all. I am so blessed to be part of these people’s lives. Every time I hear phrases such as, “You can beat this,” “You can do it,” and “You are strong” I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. I am so proud of and thankful to have people around who also refuse to let me listen to the expectations of a cancer patient. These people have kept me sane and are continuing to do so. I am happy to have so many people around to help me stay stubborn. I am grateful to be a part of this rebellion.