When The Gods Are Against Me

Starring in the Lead Role as the Victim of My Own Life

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I’m a cancer survivor. Those words taste wrong, unfair and cruel in my mouth. To use the word survive implies triumph. Hold off on the queued music. It was luck. I was lucky and there are no words to express the intensity of gratitude I feel for luck. I’m not being dismissive. I believe there’s a significant difference between surviving and not becoming another statistic.

Last month I had my bi-annual routine check-up. The usual female stuff after losing your incubation station to cancer. Physical exam, ultra-sound, mammogram and chest scan.

Test results showed scar tissue, nodules and damaged air sacs in my lungs. It was discovered by random chance and I was diagnosed with early onset Emphysema. Progressive early onset. Progressive in the sense there wasn’t any trace of it six months ago.

The human body is an intriguing organism. When I had cancer there were loud and clear red flags screaming, Hey, you’re fucked and notice me.

Emphysema? I feel fine (minus the part where anxiety is now causing me to gasp for air). I never would have known if the doctor hadn’t told me. I never would have known if I didn’t receive bi-annual routine testing.

I mean, I would’ve figured it out eventually when I began experiencing symptoms but for the present moment it was nonexistent. Until it wasn’t anymore.

There’s irony. There’s always irony, isn’t there? There is no cure for Emphysema. As of right now I’ve been advised the best I can do is slow down progression.

How can I do that? By quitting smoking, of course. By quitting something I’m not doing. Yeah, I kind of feel screwed.

I’m starring in the lead role of the victim of my own life.

It’s like being picked last on the playground when it comes to healthy genetics.

I told a friend the other day. He said, You can beat this! Actually, no, no I can’t. It’s medically impossible. As the victim I must say, There’s no point in having a positive outlook.

It’s left me feeling anything but stable. I can’t blame myself for feeling this way, really. Progressive. Does that mean months, years, decades, can you tell me anything?

No.

The good news is symptoms are treatable, So, at least I’ll feel somewhat comfortable while I’m biding my time on medical death row. Well, whenever that is, you know? For now it’s Benzodiazepines and if I’m being honest, I’m definitely not taking enough of them.

Stay calm, I tell myself as I stand here freaking out, alone. I feel scared and alone. No, wait. I feel scared, panicked and alone. Damn it. Let me try again. I feel scared, panicked, alone and angry.

I did what anyone in my situation would do. I left the doctor’s office and went home to eat vegetables and catch up on the episodes of New Girl I’ve missed.

On the drive I pulled over in front of the library to reminisce. Remember The Portable Chekhov? Damn, that’s a good book. Or that one time the librarian inter-library loaned me Around the World in 72 Days, written by Nellie Bly? Yeah, good times.

I sat on the couch contemplating the major life decisions I’d made while eating the remaining morsels of broccoli and carrots. Okay, I’m finally ready to admit it. The eighth cat may have been a bit overboard.

It’s deep into winter, a reminder to me that all people tend to get lazy. Coping with subzero temperatures is best handled under blankets in bed. That means there’s a minimum of four months out of the year I’m allowing my body to slowly kill me.

Exercise. I need exercise. I dust off the Nordic Track and intentionally run up and down the stairs.

I get back into the car and drive 40 miles to the nearest Costco and purchase $244 worth of vitamins. Heart health, One-A-Day, Iron, Calcium supplement, A, B12 Complex, B’s 1 and 6, D, and some sort of funky herbal hormonal mix.

I’m not sure what this all means or is supposed to mean, or if it even means anything. I think I’m supposed to be having some sort of, if I had a second chance to do it all over again experience or, savor every moment I have left or, love the ones you’re with or some other type of Hallmark shit.

I don’t know.

I hadn’t mentioned it to my family because I just can’t see the sense of us all having a meltdown or maybe there wouldn’t be any meltdown at all. Maybe I’m overreacting or being dramatic. Am I taking this too seriously, perhaps?

As the victim I feel I should be saying something along the lines of, This is it, I guess. It’s the first day of the rest of my life, just like the rest of us.

I could be selfish. I’ve epically failed in that role before, but I could try again. How’s this? Forget feeling guilty about debt. Whatever, it’s just money. I should have done a better job but whatever, it’s too late for that. Screw responsibilities. I should be prying myself from the house and seeing the world the way I want it to be seen. Finally! I can chase my dreams with no excuses! Here’s my chance to invest in myself by getting off the derailed train of real life misery.

Should I be writing all of this down? I should, I think. Write it down. Write everything down.

898 words in and I’m already exhausted with playing the role of the victim. Instead, I’ll do what I probably should be doing. I’m sure if I applied myself I could find a psychologist or even a grief counselor who would agree. I need to allow a few days to feel sorry for myself and then pull my shit together, dust myself off and start over again.

Most undoubtedly, I need to get off my ass and stop playing the role of victim because if I don’t I could be wasting months, years or if I’m lucky, decades.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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