Cancer Girl The Untouchable
One day in a fit of wild optimism I went on eBay and bought myself the most beautiful pair of red cowboy boots I could find. The day they arrived in the mail my feet were too swollen from the Prednisone to even try them on, but I set them on top of the tv where they would be a constant incentive for me to get well. I would lie there with my eyes on the prize, visualizing my future self sporting a head full of brand new short spiky bleached white hair, all decked out in my beautiful new red cowboy boots, gleefully dancing my heart out all night long. And oh my lord, that image made me so idiotically happy! I held on to that happy image with a white-knuckled death grip through the very darkest passages of hell.
And my friends, tonight I finally wore my red cowboy boots to a zydeco dance, for the very first time. I decided I needed to get my mind off the worrisome pap test results, and just go out and have myself a ball. It was a big annual dance party, held in an outdoor pavilion out in the country, and just about everybody I knew was there. I had waited so long for this! Every cell in my body was buzzing with happiness as I greeted old friends, hugged, laughed, exchanged news, waved to familiar faces across the dance floor. It felt so goddamn good to see everybody again, I was about to explode. I couldn't wait to dance.
But the oddest thing: nobody asked me. Not one single person. I stood up in the front, in the center, and smiled, and tapped my beautiful new boots. But as every song started, guys I knew would quickly walk right past me like I was invisible on their way to ask somebody else to dance. I kept hoping and smiling and trying to stay happy, but you know, after about 45 minutes I began to wonder what the hell was wrong with me. Did I have a bad case of BO? A giant booger dangling from my nose? A snapshot of Lorena Bobbit taped to my butt? Or was it the stigma of cancer?
Well, of course old stuff started to come up. Standing there like a wallflower triggered all kinds of icky issues. And wouldn't you know, my damn therapist is on vacation. Old hurts bubbled up from the deep reservoir of doom where they lurk, and they seriously began to cloud my vision. All I could think was how ugly I am, a major sexual pariah with cooties. I relived the seventh grade cotillion where nobody ever asked me to dance because I was a homely girl nerd with thick glasses. And the asshole guy I asked to dance at a zydeco club two years ago who sneered, "Why should I dance with you? You won't fuck me." And worst of all, the devastating memory of how the man I had loved was sexually repulsed by me after my cancer. I felt so hideous and untouchable, I wanted to fall through the floor and die.
All these things have really done their damage to me, they've left indelible scars that still open up and bleed sometimes. I'm way too fragile, and I'm learning that I need to protect myself better. After an hour of never dancing, it was all I could do to keep my chin from quivering and my eyes from filling up with tears. I had to leave before I embarrassed myself further by crying in public.
See, this is the thing about cancer: the whole time you're sick, all you think about is how much you want your old life back again. But as time passes, it becomes heartbreakingly clear that you can never ever have that old life back again. You may be alive, but it's dead and gone forever. Too many things have changed, inside and out. You can't go back. You just have to do your best to rebuild a new life from scratch, and try to find new things that might bring you some semblance of joy.
And honestly, I'm trying not to be bitter or angry or vengeful. There's a little wee bit of me that's tempted to go to the next zydeco dance and stand up on a chair and holler, "Hey GUYS! When y'all get YOUR damn cancer and your stupid dicks fall off or whatever, see if I'll give YOU the fucking time of day." But alas, I've taken a solemn oath to never be mean to a cancer person, ever, so I can't.
Anyway. I guess I just need to forget about dancing for now, leave it behind, and try to fill my life with other things, things that won't rub so much salt in my old wounds and make me want to die. Because I really and truly can't afford to feel that way these days. You know?
But damn, it hurts a lot to lose yet another dream. A lot.