October 14, 2014
“I feel like doing something… that I want. Something I was too afraid to do before this.” I’m thinking aloud.
“What do you mean? Like what?” The voice that replies is familiar, comforting.
“Like getting a tattoo, or …or… or cutting my hair really short.”
“Because… because I feel like choice has been taken away from me. My body no longer feels like it is mine.”
“I don’t understand.” I see a worried frown begin to form.
“This year, with the concussion, the cancer – my mind and my body have just had to succumb to what is happening to me. I can’t change it or do anything about it and I resent that. “
“I still don’t think a tattoo is a good idea, I don’t like them.”
I smile wearily, ” Don’t worry, I’m not saying that I’m getting a tattoo, I’m just trying to explain how I feel.”
“Oh, okay.” The frown disappears ever so slightly.
I sigh and try to understand my overwhelming urge to rebel, resist, do what my doctors say I can’t, do something unhealthy just to spite this cancer, act up, disobey, do something not expected of me.
I continue, “I feel like I need to do something to take back control.”
“Control of what?”
“Control over what happens to me. Control over my life. Control over my body, just some type of control. I have had things happen to me this year, not small things, big things. I know I don’t really get to choose what happens to me, but it is like I need to have some semblance of control, otherwise …”
I consider carefully how I would be if I didn’t feel this anger and urgency to do something rash.
“Otherwise, I would be apathetic. I wouldn’t care and I would give up.”
“I think I understand, but now that you have figured out why you feel like this, do you still need to do something?”
Resistance may be a healthy response because it embodies this human will to fight, to not accept what is unfair and painful and the need to rise above our challenges. Ultimately, whether or not we do have control over our lives, some people need to keep the semblance of autonomy. It’s likely I am one of those people. This a part of the reason why people who have gone through certain experiences, like cancer, call them “life-changing”.
It was more than just what was happening to my body, the fact that I had to have surgery, that I would have to take medication for life, that if it came down to it, I would have to have radiation therapy, all together had driven me to feel … discouraged and helpless. It comes down to taking ownership over this cancer.
As painful and difficult as it can be to try to dig deeper and understand my emotions and why I am feeling the way I do, it has been immensely valuable. I have been able to explain myself a little bit better to those close to me. Most times, I can explain why I am angry, or grumpy, or annoyed or sad. I think (and hope) it helps them understand where I am at. I had an inkling at the beginning of this journey that having cancer might change my views a bit. It has, but so far not to extent I thought it would. My core values and beliefs are still the same, but I am learning to understand my emotions, how I respond to external influences and what drives me. All those coping mechanisms are now being seriously put to the test.
I tried to come up with a healthy, non-damaging way to take back control and satisfy my inner rebel. They say not to make serious or permanent decisions during a time like this when I’m essentially grieving the loss of my thyroid. So I weighed my options carefully, and chose to start off by getting a haircut. It was either that or get a piercing somewhere painful and I had had enough of sharp things being stuck into me. And hair grows.
I have previously donated my hair 3 times and I knew I wanted to do it again. It’s a great way to give back. It seemed like now was the opportune moment. This time though, I wanted a much, much shorter haircut. Those with long hair know how attached we can get to it. I also wanted to show off my tough-looking scar better. So, I got myself out of my pajamas, my white socks and my partner’s oversized hoodie and off to the salon. I had been moping and wandering about our home aimlessly for days, in various states of apathy, grumpiness and sadness, so it was good to get out.
My hair hasn’t been this short since I was 7, probably. Before the haircut, I was nervous and curious and excited and it was oh-so good to feel those emotions again. I had almost forgotten.