Finally, I'm feeling better—and not just feeling free of physical pain but also feeling emotionally exhilarated by the return to health. Perhaps only another cancer patient—or another hypochondriac—can relate to the relief of having your body do what it's supposed to do: fight disease, repair the damage, get you back on your feet.
Nearly three years after my diagnosis, cancer still colors every moment of my life. Each little ache (today I've got a sore area on the right side of my lumbar spine, a tender spot on the irradiated side of my chest, a bruised feeling on the bottom of my right foot, painful neck glands, a little gas—and that's just today) generates an ominous question mark: Is this the symptom that will change my life forever?
And it's not just the aches. In yoga class this morning I think, Will I be able to get the same succor from these familiar routines if I get a recurrence? Or will the magic have worn off or be undermined? If cancer spreads to my bones, will I be able to practice the physical asanas? I know they're just one aspect of yoga, but to me they're vital in dissipating the nervous energy I'm afflicted by. Nagging my daughter C to do some chores to get herself ready for college, I wonder, If I get sick again and, say, die, will my kids be o.k. without me? At the health-food store, I debate whether to get C a sweet treat, knowing that my having had cancer raises her risk of getting cancer, and many nutritionists believe avoiding fats and sugars offsets risk. Later, at another health-food store, I'm tempted to get myself a treat. I resist that temptation but then succumb to another craving when I get home. Was it worth dying for those few spoonfuls of ice cream?, I berate myself. I find a couple of great T shirts—ones that obscure my flat-chestedness—at a street fair and buy them, then wish I hadn't since not only is the cotton they're made of not organic (and we all know that cotton accounts for 25% of the world's pesticide use) but they're also made in China. Should I throw them out?
And those are just a few droplets in the continuous stream of intrusive thoughts that plague me on a good day. Indeed, I was actually congratulating myself today on how far I've come in breaking free of obsessive thinking. Will I ever be normal again?