There was a time when the evening light shone just so, a time when you leaned back, glass in hand, and in good company, talked and listened and laughed. The table might be full, you could follow your friend into the kitchen and ease in to stir the still-warm sauce. All around a warmth. The sizzle of meat. Clinks and short silences and nowhere to need be. The threats of the world ebbed and you were well.
Fragments of that life scattered after the cancer diagnosis. Life was no more a surety, the needle’s draw drew breath with it, too. Hospital visits filled the days. And as I begin to recall those earlier days, I remember that friends and family formed a nest of support where I could hide, gather strength, grieve. They gathered pieces of my life like birds gather yarn bits and floss, and made a home. I will forever remain grateful.
But the light always changes, must change. Friendships and relationships felt the tides of time ebb and flow in new ways, and I found myself re-negotating, re-feeling what it meant to interact with others as a terminally ill person. This was entirely unexpected and sometimes brought anger and new grief. One friend burst out laughing when I told her of my cancer. It stunned me. Our last two encounters have been within the last two years. She spent both times talking the entire time of carb dangers and the powers of essential oils. I no longer see her.*
Another friend had been carrying many secrets, and they asked repeatedly for me to keep more. I couldn’t do it.
And I had to begin removing myself from people who could not listen. The lack of listening began to irritate me more and more. I have often been on the quieter side, but I grew angrier and less patient with people who dominated our time. Time was all I had left, and I wanted a voice in it. I also wanted silence. I wanted joy. I wanted depth and a space to grieve.
I would find myself deeply angry at having let myself be bulldozed by someone’s need to vent for hours. It struck me as deeply selfish. And here I must own my lack of assertiveness; I should have spoken up, but my reserves were low. I was tired and sad.
So I let some friendships go. (Family is a whole other post.) Some of these were a relief. Others I miss. And some friendships deepened. Others with chronic illness, caregivers, neighbors—so many of these grew into what felt like family.
I do not regret these shifts. They were necessary and largely inevitable.
But I long for a time when cancer didn’t filter through each word and day. I miss banal, workaday casualness, conversations about supper, a lightness to my orbit. Cancer is so damned heavy. For everyone.
And the carrying, it must go on.
* Details and info have been very much changed