the darkness

October 29, 2009

At least once in life a person must snorkel. I did it on a family vacation in Greece a few years ago. The warm shallow water, the sun on your back, the aqua spider web of reflections and the endless treasures awaiting their discovery on the seafloor all make for an afternoon that stays with you forever. A friend once wisely advised me to focus on a single glorious thing. Great advice. An afternoon adrift in the Ionian Sea, half-naked, my bikini top abandoned on shore next to the stack of books I had planned to read that summer, the sound of my daughters playing in the distance, the feeling like there is no place but here, and now, has got to be the most glorious set of things among glorious things one could focus upon. But the sea holds its dark spaces too.

Once you drift away from the beach and the water becomes deeper, an interesting thing happens. The sea floor falls away to darkness. The water cools. The children’s giggles are no longer audible. There exists a line off shore, a line between the glorious things and cold darkness. For a brief moment that afternoon, it felt as though the sea could suck me in, steal me from my perfect moment. Not being one to dwell in scary places, I simply turned toward the beach and avoided the whole scene. I had a walk to take, books to read, beer to drink. But in the days since my diagnosis, I have been reminded many times of that moment when I looked into the blackness of the sea, when my whole beautiful life was right there behind me and in front of me was cold, dark, deep, scary water. Facing my breast cancer and the treatment that followed felt much like looking into the abyss of the shadowy sea. Only this time, there was no turning back.

I have not written on this blog in quite some time because I have gone through a period in my treatment where quite uncharacteristically I was unable to focus easily on single glorious things, unable to turn toward the shore. My otherwise positive attitude had almost drowned. I was months into treatment and it seemed all of my friends and family had gone on with their lives. Of course this was not true. Any one of them would be right there had I called but in the swell of my despair, I could not realize their support. I was lost and scared, adrift in the cold water, staring right into all of the dark side-effects of chemotherapy. I struggled to maintain my composure. I ceased to write. I harpooned a writer’s block rather than pick up a compass to navigate the dark, stormy waters. I was embarrassed about feeling depressed.

The truth is however, cancer sucks. And the only thing that sucks more than cancer is the chemo one goes through to beat it. Your hair falls out. You are cold and tired and sick all the time. Everyone walks faster than you do. Your taste buds are shot to hell such that all food and God forbid, wine tastes like dirt and metal. My goodness, how much shit can one human take? Cancer you are the worst date I have ever been on. First you convince me I am going to die before I hit the age of 50, then saw off my tits, shoot me up with drugs that make me leak from every part of my body, toss out my hair and transfuse my blood so I can freak about that later. And oh by the way, that wonderful glass of ‘05 Sanoma cab you love so much? Save it because the cheap hooch from Joe’s tastes exactly the same.

You bitch. You almost got to me. You almost stole my smile, my drive, my will to defeat you. Here is a single glorious thing for you, Cancer. Last week I finished my last chemotherapy treatment. I am turning toward the shore, baby, warm water, wet kids in beach towels, cabana boys, wine and cheese. And oh, that bikini top –you can have it. I don’t need it anymore.


4 Responses to “the darkness”

  1. Dixie Says:

    Ronnie, You should write a book I can tell you it would be a best seller I would be one of the first to by it. Your a very special person and are truly blessed so start writing we’ll all be waiting.
    God Bless
    Love Dixie

  2. Janet Says:

    You’re a lovely writer. Keep it up, woman … write through those dark times, they don’t last as long that way 🙂


  3. Bonnie Says:

    That was not the daughter I saw. The woman I saw was and still is a fighter. Never at anytime would she have given in and let the dark water consume her life. She had and still does everything to fight for . . . a caring husband, three wonderful children, a very supportive family and friends. Not to mention a dog, cat, and bunny. But even with all that you have to live for you needed something more. That is when “GOD” stepped in, wrapped his loving arms around his child, my daughter, then softly encouraged and gently took you back to the shore. Now he wants you to stop worrying and enjoy each and every moment that he has given you.

  4. Tamara DeLand Says:

    That’s my girl.
    I’ve been thinking about you a lot . . . and this entry teaches me that we always should pay attention to those underlying thoughts–they are a language all their own. I am embarrassed to say that I bought something for you quite some time ago, but I think I’ve misplaced it. It is perfect for you now, so I will go digging. (Please don’t think I’m headed for the Altzheimer’s ward, at least not yet. I’m just messy!) Maybe it was just waiting for this time right now.

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