The Inner Darkness of Cancer Warriors

The Inner Darkness of Cancer Warriors

It wasn’t normal for me to have headaches. It was even more bizarre that I would suddenly see a white lightning storm in my field of vision and no amount of blinking would help. And then there was the buzzing, like a flight of bees resting inside my skull that finally sent me to get some answers. When the doctor came in to the examination room, he held no file, made no eye contact as he sat and just looked bereft. I felt my stomach heave and stick in my throat. Then he said the words… the ones that rebounded through my nightmares for weeks.  “Your scan shows multiple brain tumours.” The shock of that moment feels like being dropped from a cliff. Later, as I made my way out of his office, I realized that in just a small increment of time, my future had been violently ripped away. I have since realized that the moment at the Doctor’s was just the first of many bombshells. The days to follow would become a painful rending of flesh and increasingly deep cuts. Since that day, I have been sinking and bleeding as pieces of my emotional strength are excised with a rusty blade. I listen to the plans of my friends and family for their vacations, or their retirement and I feel the wounds open further. Every time I force a smile to appear happy for somebody who has the privilege of keeping their life and a future, my pain deepens. Once cancer comes into your body, it physically takes over space in sometimes dangerous and painful ways. What I didn’t realize is that it also bullies a whole new space into your emotional world. And you have to live in that dismal space all by yourself. It is lonely in a way that goes beyond desolation. Suddenly I can’t seem to connect with anybody around me anymore. When did that happen? The reality of slowly sinking and drowning has a brutal impact, but I thought I could still be me. This isn’t me. I can’t even find me. How could I explain to all the happy people around me that part of my mind had become a dark body of sludgy water constantly lapping against my feet? I picture my cancer as a black corrupt ocean extending beyond the horizon, and it will come for me on the ever shrinking beach when it is my time to die in it. Living with cancer means that at my best moments, I am walking alongside the killing black water and pretending I don’t see it.  I turn my thoughts away from the rising line and feign that it isn’t trying...
Having the Rape Talk With my Daughter

Having the Rape Talk With my Daughter

This post isn’t going to be pretty, so if you are easily offended, you might want to go back to Pintrest or watch some cat videos. My world contains many women who run the gamut of personalities and life experiences. Generally however, they are in my life because they are smart and fierce, and most of all honest. It is that honesty that builds trust, which has allowed me to hear their stories. Their real stories. They break me apart with their tragedies and make me weep for their strength and resilience. Their stories have taught me what can happen to girls and women. They told me about that which is survivable, and what layers on debilitating scar tissue. Now that I have this knowledge, I can’t un-know it. I have my own tragedies, but I have never been raped or assaulted, so hearing all the ways women have been hurt, good strong women, is beyond reckoning. This brings me to my daughter. The thought of her suffering the tragedies that plague my friends is terrifying to consider. Yet they happen in the subterranean world of sexual predators and rapists all the time. Women get drugged, raped, forced, assaulted and demeaned at a level that is unfathomable and mostly invisible. Girls who are just becoming women are particularly vulnerable. They are raised to trust, to be empathetic, and sadly they are often taught to be passive. They are prey. I knew I had to be direct with my teen daughter to help her make a plan for the possibility of violence. I had to tell her how it is, for real. I had to make her strong and resilient and find some way to make her less likely to be prey. The first part was easy, even my Mother told me this, “Don’t get in with the wrong crowd.” Because clearly those people not only do drugs but are criminals and rapists. I am not sure all the people in the bad crowd could be evil as I had been warned, but generally those people don’t do well in school and aren’t stellar citizens and spend time in altered states that make for bad decisions. So maybe that bit of advice still has merit. It is the darker and more serious damage that I needed to help my daughter navigate. I had to tell her that the people closest to her were the most dangerous. The men she trusted or loved could also be her abuser or rapist. In fact the boogie man on the street is much less likely than the quiet friend who watches her at a party to be her rapist. She was upset at this part...
Sleep Away Camp is Creepy

Sleep Away Camp is Creepy

I get it, parents need a break in the Summer, and camp is what people do. I mean it is a childhood rite of passage is it not? Loads of movies and youth themed books are set at Summer Camp. It sounds ideal, but as in all things shiny, the reality isn’t all that perfect. First of all, for those of us who aren’t raising our children with any religion, try finding a camp that isn’t put on by the local Baptists or Seventh Days or whatevers. I don’t want to send my kid away for a week and have him come back a Mormon looking to take his scooter out door knocking. Then, if you are lucky enough to find a camp that isn’t enforcing the Lord’s prayer over marshmallows, it has a theme of some sort. No seriously, there is Engineering camp, Computer Camp, Fat Camp, Theatre camp.. the “all horses all the time” camp was on the list. Look out for Band Camp – they aren’t only blowing flutes. There is even a camp for annoying yoga chicks… oh no wait, that is the gym down the street that I don’t go to. Never mind. Still on the hunt for  “normal” camp I found a few promising options… then checked out the prices. Damn people, I didn’t expect you to give the kid a nose job and a master’s degree in that week… why so expensive? Then the idea of putting a bunch of near teens all together in one place and teach them to sing Kumbaya… maybe. But then realizing that they do swimming and water sports out on a lake that smells more like a bog, being overseen by pimply and easily distracted teen counsellors? Even if I thought they could be trusted to keep my child safe, I worry about some of the other “adults” that are drawn to hanging out at camps. I read the news people… I picture the moment I put my child on the bus to camp with his sleeping bag, back pack, and hopefully the right clothes and it hits me. What if this camp is a dive? What if the kids sleep on a dirt floor as the rain leaks into the roof of a dilapidated cabin? Then I shake it off and realize the main issue will likely be the asshole children already organizing into miniature street gangs on the bus ride up. Maybe camp is perfectly safe and somehow worth the money. Maybe my experience with bible camp was somehow unusual, but I seem to remember that we had a lot of access to contraband – serious contraband for that week. There were also many couplings going on in...