And so I find myself unable to sleep and with steel-tipped butterflies filling my stomach. Tomorrow brings my semi-annual PET/CT scan, my six-monthly descent into the underworld, into my personal medical Hades. These scans remind me that I am still embedded in that first circle of hell, still in Limbo. Not yet free of all of this yet no longer defined by my diagnosis: "Lost are we and are only so far punished/ That without hope we live on in desire." Virgil was referring to the unbaptized and "virtuous pagans" who inhabited Limbo in The Inferno, but I feel similarly. Maybe I am being dramatic; perhaps an allusion to a Christian allegorical epic poem is a bit much, but I am freaking out.
I am freaking out because I found out earlier today that an old friend of mine's mother passed away two weeks ago after an ugly fight with cancer. Freaking out because following this news, I was looking at the blogs I follow on blogspot, and I came across this recent post by a woman who had beaten Ewing's sarcoma. She was just diagnosed with a second primary cancer. Now, I don't know her and I am pretty sure she has no idea I follow her blog, but her blog is witty and frank and I respect and appreciate her outlook during her own adventures with cancer. But now she, this absolutely gorgeous and talented young woman, has been diagnosed with cancer all over again. What? Seriously? Why and how and to what ends does this happen? Why does one woman die and another have to stop her young life Again and stare down a cancer diagnosis?
I am struggling with survival. Almost exactly one year ago, I returned home from Jackson, Wyoming, having just met some of the most tremendous and strong and utterly inspiring young adults I will ever meet. I had no meteoric self-revelation after my initial week with First Descents, but it changed me in ways I am still trying to define. Among probably more important things, it at least sparked my running back up. After I came back from my week with FD in Moab this past April, I was affected even more powerfully. For better and for worse, in some respects. The survivors I met in Utah are Exceptional. I am super small potatoes compared with these men and women: leading their own young adult cancer survivor kayaking adventures; running and biking miles and miles and then a few miles more; living life with unimaginable fervor just because they Can, because they are alive to do what makes them happy. Even their daily adventures and activities are awe-inspiring to me. One of them can update her Facebook status that she went to Whole Foods or something equally banal, and I feel a surge of pride that I have had the honor of meeting this person.
And I fear I am not living up to their examples. Every day I wonder if I am living my life as well as I should be. For some reason, I am still here, still kicking and screaming through each day, but I am filled with a tremendous restlessness, a Knowing that I am not meeting my potential but an uncertainty as to what exactly that means. Maybe it is because I am so young... 23 is pretty young (although I will be 24 in a month!). Perhaps it is because I am once more living in the bedroom where I had some of my worst battles with cancer and the effects of treatment (ugh, the suburbs). Maybe it has to do with my lingering and annoying medical issues. Relatively serious immuno-deficiency, anyone?
Ahh, and I know none of this is helpful to anyone. No one wants to read about my own lack of confidence. Self-doubt doesn't make for very good dinner table conversation. So I'll just wrap this rant up and say, I am sure tomorrow's scans will go smashingly. Happy Tuesday, sad toad. Perhaps one day I'll find my way out of this bog of uncertainty and inadequacy. I just hope that day comes sooner rather than later... in the meantime, still searching for