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In 2010, Jonathan and I were living in New York City. He had a fancy internship at an indie film company and I was in an intensive program studying acting. We were young, fresh out of college and ready to conquer the world. On a hot summer day, we decided to visit Times Square. I thought I'd love it. The people. The lights. The busyness. It would feel like the center of the world.
I absolutely loathed Times Square. I was utterly lost and overwhelmed by the people, the lights, the busyness. Once inside, we were trapped. For a girl who grew up in the middle of a peanut field with no trace of human life for miles and miles, I panicked. Too much information was coming at me all at once. The billboards. The scrolling news feeds. The people running you over you in every direction. I held onto Jon's hand so very tight, relying on him to guide me out of this chaos. This mess. This hell. Many times people would come in between us. Our hands would break and I could barely see him among the crowd. His head bobbing in a sea of strangers. I made a vow to myself right then and there. I would never come back.
When I started this blog a few months ago, I didn't want it to be all about cancer. In fact, I really didn't want it to be about cancer at all. I wanted it to be about our love, our creativity, and our films. As the weeks went on, I found it hard to post. I didn't have any material. The reason? All I ever think about is cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. How in the world was I supposed to blog my thoughts and feelings not about cancer, when all I ever think about is cancer. Jon has cancer and there is nothing I can do to change it. He is 28 years old, young, talented, smart, a never smoker, and otherwise perfectly healthy and he is living with stage iv lung cancer.
To put it into perspective, my brain looks like Times Square. Except the billboards and newsfeeds are all replaced with information on lung cancer. Information on the newest clinical trials, science, statistics, etc scroll around and around in my mind 24/7. It is insane. The billions of people running me over are doctors and articles, pushing and pulling me in every direction. Which way do I go? This pattern of thinking never ends. Lately, it has become a severe problem and I am unable to sleep. These thoughts, just like the people, come in between me and Jon. Sometime, it's difficult for me to see him in the crowd. To see what really matters. I have become a victim of my constant thoughts, the disease I carry inside my mind.
This past weekend, Jon and I were fortunate to attend a seminar all about his specific type of lung cancer. It was very information and offered a great deal of hope for the future of science and medicine. Basically, if you're going to get lung cancer, now is the time to do it. A few short years ago, with this diagnosis, Jon wouldn't be here today. Medications are coming, in form of clinical trials and petri dishes, that will continue to help save his life and offer us a future! Wonderful news! And I will post more about this specific experience in my next blog. However, I couldn't help but feel helpless sitting there, all day, listening to very smart people talk about scans, statistics, and a lot of other stuff I couldn't comprehend. It was scary. How did we get here? We were loving life and working on our goals of becoming successful artists. I didn't worry about starting a family, a dream of ours, because we had plenty of time for that. As I sat there, I wanted to grab Jon and run away into the sunset a la Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard at the end of Modern Times.
I was also very afraid of how he was taking in all this information. As a caretaker, I have tried to shield him from as much of this as possible. Filter it. I have taken on all the research, the good and the bad. And here we were, in the very front row, and it was right in our face. No turning back. No wishing this wasn't in our life. No running away. I looked over at his precious face and I just wanted to take him in my arms and hold him. In fact, I could feel everyone's pain in the room. Their uncertainty. Their hope. Their fear. And I wanted to take each and every one, the patients and the caregivers, in my arms and hold them. But that still wasn't enough. I wanted to transform into a beautiful angel with giant wings and hold the entire room in my arms. But if I could do that, I thought, who would hold me?
There are many wonderful blogs that deal with lung cancer. The people behind the blogs have become my personal heroes. Many are patients, brave enough to honestly chronicle their thoughts and feelings and putting their (many times young) faces on lung cancer. As a caretaker, I feel an incredible responsibility to address depression and how it can overcome someone who has dedicated their life, their existence, to saving the life of the person they love. Depression has become a very real part of my life since Jon's diagnosis. I see a therapist weekly, a concept foreign to me before cancer entered our life. I take medication. And I use essential oils to help combat the downward spiral of depression. Many days, I feel like a walking open wound. If you look at me, I'll fall apart in a mush of tears. Some days, I consistently "leak." Tears just stream down and I can't even tell you what has brought them on. I try to keep my head above water, and do so because I love Jon and want to shield him from my own depressive thoughts, but sometimes it becomes difficult. Lately, we've even looked into a retreat of some kind where I could go to deal with this trauma in our lives. Talk with specialists and others patients infected with depression. I am not at that point yet, but depression in patients and caregivers is a very real issue that needs to be addressed. I do believe there is a lot of hope. He is on medication and today, he is doing well and we are happy. But as 20somethings, this is not how we saw our life.
I have looked to God to help save me from depression. To save us from cancer. In fact, I haven't stopped at my Christian God. I have called upon all the Gods in all of history and summoned all religions and spiritual beliefs to help us cope with this. I have prayed and meditated. I have learned of Buddha and the teachings of suffering. I have looked at philosophers, poets, and historical figures who have dealt with tragedy. In doing all of this, I realized that I am abusing myself with thought. Thoughts of cancer and thoughts of death. I am dress rehearsing tomorrow and missing out on today. The here and the now. The Jon that is doing well, fighting hard on targeted therapy, with options to try in the future. Maybe our love story will not have a tragic ending. I am coming to terms with the fact that all life ends in death. Jon has lung cancer, but each and every human being will die in some fashion or another. Life is a terminal condition. And death. What if it doesn't have to be a bad thing? Feel like a punishment? Is it really losing to a battle? What if it's beautiful. What if the punch line to this joke of life is that the one thing we've all been dreading and fearing, is actually the best thing that will ever happen to us.
Was our love a mistake?
Too grand for this simple planet?
Too other worldly for their simple minds?
Perhaps we were meant to meet as angels
In a dimension more competent for a love so strong,
But by chance, currents moved and winds were shifted,
Two of God's holiest creatures accidently met on Earth.
Erupting the world set in ordinary
And forcing it to contain a vitality that is extraordinary.
If wings be granted to one before the other,
Know that one day united forever
We will be
And this time in a land that can hold
All that is the beauty
Of our perfect love.-Robyn Hicks