Man, I wish I would have received this much attention the time I was hospitalized for Depression which, to me, felt much worse. Ok, let’s just call it out for what it is: Cancer makes you popular, that is, if you survive it. I know I only stood at stage two (stage four being diagnosed as roadkill). I know its like saying losing your hearing saves you the pain of listening to Rush Limbaugh and television commercials. I know I am being insensitive and politically incorrect in saying so (If you want sensitivity and political correctness, there is this place called the children’s section of the library readily available at no cost). Nevertheless, last year, I found this to be quite a revelation.
Being that I was born the middle child and grew up a fat-nosed Latina in beach-blonde idealized Southern California before it was cool to be chicana (oh, is it?), you’d think a girl would get used to being ignored. Well, thank the devil for inventing the mark of the beast, for if it weren’t for social security numbers, there wouldn’t be any record of me existing. So when the word got out that I was incubating a cancerous tumor, things took a surprising turn.
“Your sister wanted me to give this to you. She’s been too busy to drop it off, but I think its still nice of her,” my mother would tell me handing over a gift bag a week before Christmas. I think that was the very first gift my sister ever bought me with her own money. But why did it have to take 37 yrs and colon cancer to get it? Thanks to her, I now had an extra four pounds in hand weights I could lug around when I went out for walks; The perfect gift for someone anemic due to cancer.
“Mija, here’s $100 to help pay for your plane ticket to Mexico. You need to go to the family reunion,” my aunt insisted.
“No, tia. It’s ok. I don’t need the money.”
“Si, si. I love you very much and I want you to be there,” she’d insist. This was big time charity considering my aunt worked a minimum wage job. I felt bad for her, so much so, I took the money.
“Don’t worry about us. We will have it all covered. You just get yourself better,” were the words uttered into the other end of the telephone being spoken by my supervisor. I hated missing work, not because I worried about the cut in my pay, well, yes that was it. More importantly, I didn’t want everyone to discover my truest nature…slackerville. Three weeks off and one painful surgery later, I returned to work and got invited to every coworker party and outing from the gays to the homophobes. “Oh, and wear something slutty,” they’d all tell me. “Of course. It’s the first thing I think about doing in the morning after colon surgery,” I’d respond.
“You need to follow your doctor’s orders. They know what they’re doing. We love you and want you to get well,” my father lectured kindly. These were words from a man who usually only covered three topics with me: the art of lacking money, the state of Israeli politics, and the art of lacking even more money. Strange, since my dear old dad has not a spit of Jewish blood in him unless they smuggled the lost tribe of Levi into Rising Star, Texas during the Great Depression. “Well, at least he never beat you,” my mother would say. Very sweet, indeed.
“Does this mean we can’t have sex?” my friend with benefits would ask.
“I have a tumor not AIDS you dork,” I’d reassure my most romantic of suitors. “If anything, it means I need it more, and fast!” Typical me, attempting to solve my problems thinking with my designer vagina.
Speaking of pleasing my inner self, during this time of illness, I reread cyclist Lance Armstrong’s book “It’s Not About the Bike”. I don’t care what anyone says about him. Nor do I care if he injected five Pfizer factories up his butt or NOT (Personally, I think all athletes should have equal access to steroids, and then go head to head to see who comes out on top). I love that he has the balls to tell journalists to jack off when they ask stupid questions. But more so, I love Lance because he’s a badass cancer survivor. His book taught me how to adjust my thinking and not make excuses for giving up exercising. Anemic and all, I continued my 4 to 5 day a week three mile jogs. I ultimately was going to be in control of my body, not cancer.
With help from the medical community and the right attitude, cancer can mold you into a tougher person and hopefully get you all the attention you lacked in your pre-cancer life. I know there will be those who won’t be so fortunate, but the choice in how you face it is still there. If only this crazy illness could have taught me how to be a better writer…that, and how to get Rush Limbaugh to shut up.