When all this is over, I’m going to be grateful for every day that I wake up without pain.
The things no one wants to do, I will be ecstatic for — like getting up early to go for a run in the morning the way I used to. I’m going to be grateful for every meal that I get to enjoy without this little mountain of pills in a nagging cup beside me. I’m going to be grateful for cocktails and coffee, for snuggles with kittens, for sleeping in and spontaneous sex. I’m going to love having hair, just so I can cut it all off — on my terms. I’m going to love dressing up, and I will never ever wear sweatpants in public again.
I might burn the house slippers I’ve worn for a year in a fiery rebuttal of all the days and nights it was too hot or cold to go out, or I was too tired, or there were too many people, or I was in too much pain, emotionally or physically.
I will be so grateful for going out, I may never come back in.
For every moment that I notice I DON’T feel nausea, tachycardia, migraines, withdrawals, severe fatigue, or joint pain, I will celebrate. Every moment I get to lose myself in a conversation or an activity, and my body simply works like it’s supposed to, I will be grateful down to my bones.
I used to want drama and adventure in my life. And then my body sent me on the adventure of a lifetime.
Now, I can barely relate to the person I was before. She was anxious and impatient, and desperate for fulfillment. She never noticed her body — what it needed, what it tried to communicate. It was at best a vehicle for pleasures and at worst an encumbrance to be forced into submission. If she wanted to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey until 4 a.m., her body had better not cry about it. That’s when the art gets made! (Or so she believed.)
Now, my body and I are a team. It took years. It was fighting cancer, and I was fighting it. I hated it for doing this to me. We were mortal enemies. We fought until I was worn out, and then we made peace, and after the peace, we made friends. I realized the cancer, an infinitesimal genetic spelling mistake, was neither its fault nor mine, and truly how much of my precious energy had been wasted in becoming a counting house for blame.
Now that we are friends, I listen a lot more than I used to. It’s hard to listen if the world around you is too loud, so I made my world quieter, and that took awhile, too. For every yes, I say five no’s. I break plans and flake out and no-show more often than my prior self’s ego would have been able to stand. But I am more connected to myself than she ever could be.
So as this period of austerity in my life comes to a close, yes, I will continue to be grateful for every little mundane experience of comfort of which I have been deprived. The first long, hot shower I had after my central line was removed was absolute bliss in a way that I imagine only prisoners of war have ever felt about a shower, and their showers must have been many times more blissful and relieving than mine.
I will laugh much more than people expect, because true lightheartedness comes at the close of times of genuine darkness — you can’t have the best of one without the worst of the other. The heart doesn’t know what it means to be light until it has been weighed down with fear and sunk to the bottom of its capacity for grief. The slow rise up from that place is like a rebirth. I think I resented my birth the first time, an adolescent existentialist rage against having the hardship of life thrust upon me without my consent.
This time, my existence is a gift. The deepest gratitude doesn’t reach to the places I’ve been, and is insufficient to convey my joy. So here’s me in a dinosaur hat.