Life Through the Cancer Lens

After living through cancer and now focusing on it for five years, it’s hard not to see cancer everywhere. My increased awareness of just how many people suffer with the disease, and my efforts to support others going through the experience means that it is always on my mind. But I worry I may have taken things too far—I’m beginning to think of my house as a cancer patient! 

Several month ago, it started to have trouble with its guts. There were strange gurgling noises and a suggestion that things weren’t being digested properly. After ignoring the problem for a while as it got progressively worse (I know, always a bad idea, but there’s a pandemic and who wants to risk one’s life for a little indigestion?) we broke down right before the holidays and had some diagnostic tests done. That’s when we got the bad news. 

There was a major blockage and we needed massive surgery, immediately. And, as in cancer, we needed to quickly get up to speed in a new area of expertise, get multiple opinions, decide who we could trust and agree on a course of treatment. After a colectomy and colostomy (ok, really a replacement of the septic tank and fields) we should be okay. The surgeons have been working on that for a couple of days. (My yard looks like a couple of really big boys left all their Tonka trucks out in the mud.) They will finish soon, but the scars will take a while to fade. We may need some reconstructive surgery come the spring.

Betrayal at Home

Meanwhile, chemotherapy to destroy any errant cancer cells (really rodenticide to eliminate the mice in the basement) has resulted in undesirable side effects, such as the smell of decaying mouse in the walls and heat vents. The house has been racked with chills. (Initially, we thought the furnace was on the fritz, only to realize we were out of fuel—no one anticipated the extra demand from our constant presence during this unending lock down!) And we seem to be having problems with some internal bleeding, or at least, to have developed pin-hole leaks in a couple of ancient copper pipes that feed water throughout the house.

It’s a lot to deal with. So, it’s no surprise that the house is weeping all the time—that is, the roof is leaking when it rains hard. I cried too, when I had cancer, mostly under the strong flow of the shower. And knowing how cancer is the gift that keeps on giving, I can’t help but wonder, what next? Like my body before it, my house has betrayed me, and I no longer feel I can trust it to do what it is supposed to do!

Unfortunately, the double whammy of cancer means not only do you have to go through all that worry and the nightmare of treatment, but you have to pay for it too. This is all turning out to be very expensive year of home maintenance, when I would so much rather be saving for vacation—should we ever be set free to take one!

Dark Humor

Of course, my house doesn’t actually have cancer and none of this has forced me—or my house—to face my mortality or lose my sense of self. But it has encouraged me to find a sense a humor in this dark time. And it’s a good reminder of how much cancer has taught me about the unpredictability of life, resilience and coping with adversity. Crap happens (or in the language of the septic experts, “effluence.”) But somehow, we manage to deal with it. And sometimes, laughter about the absurdity of it all really is the best medicine. 

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