I received this article from a fellow cancer fighter and fellow UAS teacher that gave me a lot to think about. Serendipitously, Amy and her husband John (both of whom worked at UAS a few years ago) were visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday at the exact time that I got my official diagnosis. I cannot even begin to explain how important this twist of fate was for me. Amy had gone through chemotherapy at the British Hospital four years ago. She had elected to stay in Uruguay and teach through the cancer treatment just like me. At the time, I had so many voices of others running through my head. So many opinions that I cared about but was simply overwhelmed by. It was my cancer and my choice to be here. And all I wanted was someone who understood that from a been-there-done-that perspective. Amy was and is that person for me. And she continues to be a sounding board for me from afar. She is also my tunnel vision of life after the cancer.
So, on New Years Eve I received this New York Times article from Amy. After reading it, I realized that this woman in the article had done exactly what I had done for my New Years. She had focused on the moment instead of the future. I also had a second realization: this disease is something that is simultaneously so isolating and connecting. I am not the first to be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am not the first to lose my hair due to chemotherapy. And as much as I hope to see an actual cure for this in my lifetime, I will most definitely not be the last. At the same time, I am the only one going through this in my moment. Every pain, every fear, every missed opportunity, every triumph is my own. People can watch me go through this. They can help me go through this. But they cannot fight this for me.
So, my hope comes through people like Amy. The isolation feels a little less tragic when I find other blogs like The BECHtoldBATTLE written by a hilarious badass who may be the most beautiful bald woman I have ever seen. And Let’s Make Lemonade written by a fellow teacher with such a lovely spirit. She is about at the same time frame that I am in chemo. These woman are honest and hopeful. And they give me hope. In Uruguay, we are not placed in a common room full of other patients. We are in these luxury boxes with TVs and room service. Don’t get me wrong, I love my British Hospital set-up, but I also need to know that there are others going through what I am going through. And even though we don’t know each other, we can share our thoughts and feelings of hope and hopelessness, pain and perseverance, questioning and contentment so that this all doesn’t seem like one big cosmic fuck you party of one.
So thank you to the Darryls and the Kevins and the Tristens and the Bechtold Badasses and Kate Bowlers and the Amys who make it all a little easier knowing that I am not alone in this and that there will be a other side of this.