Having Cancer Taught Me Absolutely Nothing (surprise, surprise)
I wrote an article for xoJane.com about having cancer. I was interviewed by my high school newspaper about having cancer. I spoke to Rainbow Rowell years ago about having cancer. I talk about it. I now even blog about it. And it’s all completely useless.
I just read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (see photo above). And it really fucked me up. Like beyond fucked me up.
Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Soooo… that should tell you everything you need to know about the book.
Long story short, Hazel as a character is funny and no-nonsense. She’s every bit as real of a person as the rest of us, and we should all be so lucky to know someone like her. And don’t even get me started on Augustus Waters. He’s the “male lead” and is everything you would want to find in a guy: smart, handsome, TALL, and unwaveringly strong. He also has a superb vocabulary.
Reading a book about a teenager with cancer is hard, especially as I myself was a teenager who had cancer. Read my xoJane piece; it tells you everything you need to know. And you may be asking yourself, “Bitch, why do you keep talking about your cancer? Why can’t you just move on? You’re older now. WE GET IT. You were sick.” And to those of you who think that, I don’t blame you. I’m sick of hearing myself talk about it, too. And yet… and yet. I can’t stop talking about it, because I can’t get over it.
I just can’t fucking get over it.
Hazel says in the book that she read once that the age you have cancer is the age you stop maturing. Your brain, your senses, and your emotional stability all HALT. I was fifteen. And most days, I still feel like I am. Even when I move forward, I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. I can be happy as a clam when it comes to my career, and still feel like the same loser in this picture.
I guess I’m just trying to decide how I feel after reading the book. You can see from the description that Hazel is dying. She’s a teenager, and is dying. She’s in pain, her lungs barely work, and she carries an oxygen tank wherever she goes. She attends a support group with other teens. Some of them have missing limbs (gotta love bone cancer), some are depressed, some are getting over their sickness. They remember past members who have died.
I myself never got into a support group. I never talked about it with other Cancer Kids. I didn’t think about it, and I couldn’t stand the sight of kids with no legs. It’s awful to say, but I truly couldn’t witness other peoples’ pain. I had enough of my own to deal with. Honest to God, I tried going to this summer camp thing with other cancer kids, kids who “understood” what I was going through, and I couldn’t deal. I had a legitimate, dry-heaving, sobbing on the floor, panic attack. My mom had to come pick me up before the sun even went down that first day. I couldn’t look at the other kids, I just couldn’t. Oh, and I’m also crazy selfish?
I tried to laugh about it. I played the cancer card more times than I can count. It got me out of shit. My homework somehow became inexplicably easier my sophomore year. I got a few new pairs of shoes out of it. And yeah, I got a Make-A-Wish trip. But I was a mess. I AM a mess.
Kids get cancer. Some get cancer and die. Some get cancer and live long, healthy lives. And some are like me: they live, but feel guilty about it. I lived, and I’m fine. But I learned nothing. I didn’t learn how to be brave in the face of obstacles; I didn’t have any moments of inspiration. I didn’t grow, have defining moments of clarity, or any grand epiphanies about life. I had a hospital room, where I let doctors pump poison into my system. I had my spine tapped. I had surgeries, biopsies, and medicine. There is no joy in that, and there is no higher understanding of the world. I am fifteen and stunted.
I didn’t want this post to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself. Because to feel sorry for yourself, you inherently believe that your struggles are worse than everyone else’s. I know for a fact that my suffering is NOTHING compared to the pain of others. I didn’t die. I feel guilty about being fine, and I feel guilty about feeling guilty.
This post is really disjointed. And I apologize if it’s not convincing you that the book is good. Because it really is, I swear. You’d enjoy it. It’ll make you cry, but I promise it’s worth it. It gives insight into the mind of a teenager with a disease. It tells the story of a girl who meets a boy, and the obstacles they must overcome. It’ll make you want to be better, and DO better, in your own life. And if you had cancer, you’ll understand this post. You’ll feel guilty, too.
Please don’t tell me I’m strong. And please don’t feel sorry for me. I did nothing extraordinary. I was a kid and I had cancer. And I just happened to live to talk about it. I doubt I’ll ever STOP talking about it. Because when I tell people, I feel validated. It happened and I’m still here.
I am fifteen and stunted. So if I’m a total bitch to you, that’s why. Sometimes I forget to not be fifteen. Sometimes I forget to be appreciative of my life, and where I’m at.
And sometimes I just can’t look at kids with no legs.