There are few words more harmful to me right now than “we would like to give you as much time as we can.” Those words are being said to me often, though, and so I’m trying to adjust accordingly. I am in no way shape or form dying, but those words hit me right in the heart. How do I respond? I laugh. Not psychotically, but just because I need to. Let me explain.
When I was diagnosed, my baby brother, already dying, turned to me and said, “Welcome to the club, Kelsey!”
“Welcome to what club?” I responded, already smiling.
“To the cancer club, of course!” he said, a big grin on his face.
I laughed and laughed even further still when he started calling us the “terminal two.” I wasn’t terminal, but he surely was. And when he started going down to the point past possible return, he would still turn to me and say with a smile in his voice, “Kelsey, we’re the terminal two!”
I laughed. I always laughed. Because even though it wasn’t and is still not true for me, it was true for him, and laughing was the only way to get through it.
As my recurrences get more frequent and closer and closer together, I have my freak-outs and then I pause to laugh like a person who doesn’t have a care in the world. I would rather it that way.
Many people outside of my immediate family are still horrified at the ways in which we handle bad news. But they don’t understand that laughing is simply the best way to deal with the anvils that drop frequently and joking about bad stuff really does help in the wake of the destruction that those things actually leave.
I went on a relatively short and beautiful road bike ride through the trees this weekend. The fall colors were incredible. We kept biking through little pockets of cool air, and the trees looked like they were glowing and on fire. As we made our way down the trail, I realized two things: My muscles have atrophied because weeks of radiation following recovery from surgery is not conducive to a rocking bod, and that I was feeling lucky. It was during my euphoric realization of being happy that I crashed unceremoniously and slowly to the ground.
I fell twice on that ride — a road ride, an easy road ride — partly because I’m now too slow to unclip from my pedals fast enough to stop myself, and partly because my muscles get angry and tired and reluctant — really quickly.
During this current round of radiation, my body is really feeling it, and I feel as though sometimes my body just tries to give me the finger when I am pushing it.
As I brushed the scrapes and twigs and pebbles from my legs and arms and picked up my glasses from where they flew when I went down, I started to chuckle. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the fact that my body is actively fighting me, I laughed at the picture in my head of me slowly tipping over, I laughed with the beautiful day and the luck that I felt to be there. I laughed harder still when I got home and saw the bruises that seemed to bloom like weird flowers, the darkest of blues, absolutely covering my legs and arms.
“This is what my cancer looks like,” I thought. Bruises and pain and scars and not being able to ride my darn bike during treatment for fear that I will tip over. But I will do it anyway. And I will get better and stronger, and I will ski and jump and dance and act the fool that I am because if I do not do that, I am not giving my life the justice it deserves. At the end of the day, I would rather fall asleep with a trace of a smile on my face thinking about how absurd the world is than thinking about how scary it can be.
So when you see me in 80 years in my rocking chair with a cup of tea and a good book next to a fire and the person that I love, I will be the opposite of bitter, with a smile on my face and a laugh in the air.
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