Dear Cancer, I hate you.
If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me
I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free
The above song, Howl, played in my ear this morning as I set off on a rather unexpected jog. The quoted lyrics resonated within me as I thought about my hatred of cancer.
I have lived many years thinking of “hate” as just a word I would use to be dramatic.
“Mommy, I HATE waking up before noon.”
“Mommy, I HATE dusting the house.”
“Mommy, I HATE gym class.”
My mom knew very well that I had a penchant for the melodramatic. She would say nothing, but simply give me a look that said just-shut-up-and-keep-doing-it-or-else. That was enough for me. It wasn’t truly until we found out her diagnosis that I understood what it really felt like to hate something and feel powerless to it.
Up until that point, I think gym class really was the closest thing to hate that I knew. My mom always had a philosophy of dancing through life, which was her preferred mode of exercise. I, too, perhaps in a less graceful manner, also would rather dance and clean around the house than run or play some sort of sport. The only sport I enjoyed in my early years was softball–and that was strictly because I could choose to stay in the outfield and day dream (Cue Daria theme song).
I always wanted to be athletic. The idea of a sport, in theory, is something that I feel I should enjoy. However, as soon as any ache arose or a bead of sweat accumulated onto my forehead I would pull myself out of the game. This has quite honestly been a life-long struggle for me: choosing to push myself beyond a threshold I am unfamiliar with.
My lack of interest in athleticism, in my own mind, really had not been an issue that required my immediate attention. Chris, on the other hand, being quite the athlete, found my lack of interest in athleticism to be an issue that required his attention–and no, dancing around the house did not count.
This was concluded after a wonderful day of snowboarding, that ended in my near-tear cries as I felt my legs about to give out from under me. I, too, started to feel the desire to get better and stronger.
That brings me back to my run this morning and the above quoted song. I set off on a standard loop that would bring me back home at exactly a mile. I would usually plug in my Nike app, and track exactly how far I went in what time, but on a whim, decided that today I didn’t care. I just started running. I came up out of my street to a fork that I turn left at and I went right instead. I just kept running. When I got out of my neighborhood, I turned left and kept heading toward the intersection, fueled with thoughts and emotions that were brewing within me. My mom’s passing was so recent and I am so cognizant of my own limitation in grasping the full reality of it all, yet it also feels so distant and surreal. I started to really feel that hate that I have boiling out of me as I wondered why my mom had to fall victim, why my aunt Sommai had to succumb, or why a beautiful little six year old boy has to fight this ugly disease? Why? How can it be something so small it can evade CAT scans, yet too big for us to stop? How can I ever be healthy enough to avoid it if I don’t even really know what has caused it? My feet started to ache and sweat poured out of me as I stopped thinking to concentrate on my breaths. Then, surprisingly, when my mind stopped moving, I guttural cry bellowed out of me as I began uncontrollably sobbing. I must have frightened onlookers but I just kept moving, tears and all, until my body wanted to stop… and then I turned around and had to make it home.
The purging of emotion that I experienced had caught me completely off guard. I hadn’t realized just how much I was holding in until it all came out. My cheeks felt inflamed and my legs were sore as I carried on my pace back home. Each upward climb felt grueling, but I continued. On my last climb, I smiled as I rounded the top and saw my house at the bottom of the decline. I could have easily thrown my hands into the air, in a marathon runner style, and hi-five’d myself upon getting in the door of my house. My cry-run soon became a cry-laugh as I sat myself down to stretch out. During those euphoric moments of adrenaline, as the my sweat dripped the hatred out of my body, I had an epiphany. More importantly than hating or fearing of cancer, I love my mom. That is motivation enough to push myself to be better and shut-up-and-keep-doing-it-or-else.
I miss her, terribly. I hold back thoughts about her being unable to speak, barely able to move, but holding out her arms to me and kissing me on the cheek to remind me that she was still my mom and loved me. I realize now she was saying her goodbyes, as she pushed herself well passed her limits to give me a little more time with her, knowing that she didn’t have long. I’m realizing that physically and mentally we’re all so strong but still so vulnerable. The best that any of us can do is keep moving.
I’m realizing that those moments of mental and physical strength are the beautiful ones: when we’ve surpassed our own expectations for ourselves–for our loved ones– and nothing else but our beating heart seems to matter.