Friday, February 15, 2008

cancer and the meaning of life - or not

I've been wanting to plug this book for a while.  I read it when I was pretty well past the scariest days of my cancer diagnosis.  The scariest days are when you can barely breathe because you really don't know if perhaps you've been handed your death certificate only the date is all fuzzy.  I wouldn't have wanted to read this book then.  Even when I read it, I loved it, and I laughed OUT LOUD.  But I also clicked to the author's website in trepidation lest I discover that she had died.  It was funny, but not quite so much if she hadn't beat it.  

And sadly, she didn't beat it.   When you click on her website now, you will find a goodbye message, and it is heartbreaking.  

So I have hesitated recommending the book.  I just don't know at what point other cancer patients will feel that they can laugh at the disease.  But if it is at all possible for them to laugh, this book will make them do it.  I especially remember the part when she talks about the little aches and pains we get sometimes and dismiss as nothing.  But once you have cancer, you begin to think more like you're in a movie.  Because in a movie nothing means nothing.  No character in a movie points out an ache or a pain that won't eventually come back to haunt them.  Sometimes it's hard not to think that way after one of your little aches or pains has become the biggest mountain you ever had to face.

I love the premise of this book, the title cartoon.  She rolled her eyes at those who found new meaning to life because of their illness.  I know, I know.  If you've read this blog for even a millisecond you probably know that I'm one of those people, that I analyze splinters for goodness sake - there's no way I'm getting cancer without gold-mining for the answers to all of human existence.  But, going through the process of cancer, gave me another perspective as well.  The one in which I realized that I didn't receive any answers.  Not really.  Not one single one.  I had feelings and emotions, intense ones.  And I had thoughts - both deep and inspirational.  But at no point in my process could I have said, "This is exactly why I was diagnosed with cancer.  This is the reason God allowed it to happen while I was pregnant.  This is the ten-word hypothesis for what I learned in the process.  And here is exactly what I'm going to do about it."  No way.

I want to re-read my memoir in fact, with this in mind.  If it ever gets published, I want other cancer patients and their family members to be able to say that I have written how they felt.  That I have described their fear, their questions, and some of their thoughts.  But not that I have all the answers.  That's why I like her premise.  As one of her pages describes - when you're going through it, you don't always inspirationalize yourself through each and every day.  Sometimes, you just want to be be sad about it.  You want to blink your way through another day with cancer and watch Friends reruns in order to escape your reality.  It's not always a perfect process or a perfect result.  But as with this book, sometimes it really helps to realize someone else has been there.


Jenny Hudson said...

I love it when people say I've been there, but I can't guarantee I know how you feel. Because ... they don't. But I love to read how they did feel and sosmehow it still helps me.

Matt Bowman said...

I find that I get very nervous anymore about simple, pat answers. Henri Nouwen talks about living the questions. I like that. Maybe the really big questions can't be anwered in words, only by whole lives, the story spread out with all the high points and low points and in-between points, too complex to be reduced to a simple sum.

Lori said...

I really loved & related to this post. I will admit that I am still trying to at least summarize last year's trials. I do know that I would have gone insane if I didn't have Jesus.(Give Me Jesus is one of my favorite songs. It always just helps.)

SolShine7 said...

Have you seen Crazy Sexy Cancer? If not, it's so good! It made me cry and inspired me at the same time. Here's the link to the trailer:

She has a MySpace page and website too.