Fall has always been the most nostalgic season to me. There is something visceral about the changing colors and cooler weather that brings back a flood of memories of new backpacks, new classrooms, apple cider mills and pumpkin pies. This fall, however, those usually happy memories were replaced instead with trips to the hospital, chemo-induced illness, painful surgeries and pensive scans. This time last year I was a few weeks into chemo, I’d had 3 biopsies, one fertility surgery, a medi-port placement, countless scans and I’d made at least one trip to the emergency room with, what felt like, a heart attack. Needless to say I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the last year of my life.
Even if the changing of the seasons didn’t do it surely having everything from my coffee cup to my neighborhood garbage truck covered in pink would serve as an unwelcome reminder all on its own. It is during Pinktober that my suffering is commodified and my experience is pinkwashed by smiling faces and happy survivors with whom I cannot relate. In my opinion Breast Cancer Awareness Month makes people aware that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but does little to make people aware of what it means to have breast cancer.
I have also, for the first time, found myself in positions where I am surrounded by strangers who have no idea what I’ve been through. I no longer look like a cancer patient so they have no reason to make assumptions. When they casually bring up something like my short hair I find myself always giving them the long explanation instead of just saying thanks and leaving it at that. I think I am perhaps a little desperate to share this important piece of myself, like what they see is some kind of fraudulent version of who I really am until they know about the cancer. My attempts to share almost always fall flat, however. Either I see a desperation overcome said acquaintance to find a way to change the subject or I see a sad empathy in their eyes, like they really understand, and I find myself saying things like, “yeah, it was really hard,” or, “you know I am doing much better now,” both of which are less than even half-truths.
And so I’ve become eager to find a way to tell my story, both to strangers and to myself. It finally occurred to me that I had already documented the last year of my life in Instagram posts, Facebook photos and blogs and that they might tell a much better story than words ever could. So I have put together the following video. As I said, I have mostly made this for myself, to try and reframe and retell my story, the difficult and ugly parts along with the good ones. It’s a way for me to remember, for me to grieve and feel stronger, for me to connect with this person that I was and whom I feel so sad for now. My husband is convinced that I just made it to make people cry but I promise I didn’t. The song I chose had to be this song because it’s a song about journeys and telling stories and it was with me every step of the way this past year. I hope you enjoy.