RumourNation: Not Dead Yet.

Today just happens to be the 2nd anniversary of the day I had major surgery for cancer. Rather than wallowing in introspection, I chose to honor the occasion with a date with a machine, pounding the shit out of fuzzy yellow balls on the tennis court. Fuzzy yellow balls are a good metaphor for the cancer cells that surgery, chemotherapy and radiation pounded the shit out of in my body for most of a year. I hit them hard, and it felt good.

I’ve been making some major changes in my life since finishing treatment. Most of those changes are stressful. I go to a therapist to talk about it, to create a “safe place” where we can smooth out the rough edges and make sure that I’m kind to myself. Therapy should be a requirement after you face a critical illness — I’m grateful that the medical community is acknowledging that fact. And I’m grateful that the ACA has made mental healthcare a requirement for insurance policies. Guess those pro-Obama phone calls I made while fighting off chemo-induced nausea were worth something.

It’s funny, though, that when the therapist and I talk about one currently tough situation or another, when she asks me how it’s affecting me, I have a stock response: “I’m not dead.”

I’m not being flippant, it just happens to be the truth. Things like cancer change you. I hesitate to qualify whether that change is for the better, or for the worse — you will never, ever hear me say that I’m grateful for cancer or that it made me a better person. But it has made me more respectful of myself, more aware of what I’m capable of handling, and more greedy for a life based on joy. It’s made me less tolerant of equivocation. (I’m talking to you, Tea Party.) It’s made me more clear about what I say, and what I want.

I have a beloved Labrador Retriever, and I feel like he wakes up every morning with that sentiment: “I’m not dead!” (Followed by: “Feed me now!”). When you greet each day with that kind of joy, it’s hard to be dragged down even by massive challenges. Instead of saving it for the therapist’s office, I think I’m going to try it every morning and see where it leads me.

Photo: “Joy of the Chase” by E. Howe.

Originally published at on February 23, 2014.

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