Rebecca was born and bread New York, from the upper west side and is now living in Brooklyn. She was 37 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cancer is sometimes referred to as the Emperor of All Maladies. And it is, I suppose – exactly that. But, ever since actually being visited upon by the Evil Emperor, I have come to learn quickly that its rule is not just over the maladies – no no – turns out it reigns supreme over absolutely all things of every kind and nature whatsoever.
A cancer diagnosis quickly gives you a kind of birds-eye view into certain patterns of human behavior -- and one thing that starts to happen is that people stop wanting to complain to you about anything. ANYTHING. Because you have cancer, after all. And what on earth could be worse than that? Well, actually, as it turns out: plenty!
Coinciding with my cancer diagnosis were, to name a few, the following: one of my best friends getting a divorce and navigating becoming a single mother in her 30s (oh but I feel badly complaining to YOU about all that); another friend and her two young kids playing an endless game of hot potato with a nasty (NASTY) flu (oh but I feel ridiculous complaining to YOU about the flu); another of my best friends getting married and dealing with the drama of wedding planning (oh but I feel silly complaining to YOU about wedding stuff); another friend getting pregnant and totally knocked on her ass as a result (oh but I feel stupid complaining to YOU about morning sickness); a friend’s grandmother passed away (oh but I feel dumb complaining to YOU about the death of 90-something year old woman); a friend went on her 15th first date in a row with a guy whose app pictures barely resembled his actual face and who had the conversational skills of a Neanderthal (oh but I feel absurd complaining to YOU about my loss of faith in men & love); and one friend was even kidnapped by pirates -- they cut off three of her fingers for the ransom note before she was finally rescued (oh but I feel badly complaining to you about the mere loss of some digits – I still have the other seven).
OK, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.The fact is, yeah cancer is bad. Cancer in your 30s? Definitely fucking sucks. But you know what? So does a lot of other stuff in life like divorce, a wretched flu, family drama, morning sickness, the death of our grandparents, and being single in the modern age (I mean hello! Dating apps. Dating apps might be the actual worst) — and being kidnapped by pirates! Come on — surely a pirate kidnapping competes with cancer on the sucking scale!
I don’t want to make cancer sound easy – it isn’t. But as I’ve said to these friends of mine who are so afraid to complain to me: My cancer is, as of now, pretty clear. It comes with a process and a plan. Yes, the next six months are going to be bad. I am not excited to see how bald suits me! Nor do I enjoy the side effects of chemotherapy (salt-in-wound that I mostly feel horrendously hungover when I have had not one drop to drink!) But. On the other hand – I am very lucky – I am being tended to and cared for and looked after and asked about by absolutely everybody. I haven’t taken this many judgement-free naps since I was in college.
And I basically get the green light to say and do whatever I want. And mostly I’m lucky because while breast cancer is horrible, my prognosis is very good. And I am feeling optimistic and hopeful. So please. Bring me your complaints. Tell me your stories. Your 15th horrible app date in a row is just as valid a complaint today as it was before I took residence in the evil empire.
And I want to hear it. I want to hear all about it. Pass the ice cream, bring some tissues and let’s do it. I want to stay connected and I want to laugh and cry about life – just as much today as before.