“Why can’t you just be happy?” he asks me, exhausted from the worry and the fear and the what-ifs that we’ve lived with for a year and twenty-one days. “Why can’t you let it go? You beat cancer, baby. You did it. Now you need to leave it behind you.”
But I can’t just leave it behind me. It’s too much a part of me. This nasty, angry beast has crawled inside me, fighting me from the inside as I fought it from the outside, and although I won, there are scars from the battle still. They are on my chest, red and angry lines where once there were breasts. They are on my arms, scarring collapsed veins that even the nurses curse. They’re on my hand, swelling it with lymph as it hangs on a tender arm. They even scar my skull, causing my hair to grow slowly, so slowly, so that I cease to recognize myself.
Although I cannot see them, I fear there are scars on my very soul, toughening my heart with every battle.
It is true that I have won this war. I fought this foe. I beat cancer. But it has taken parts of me that i will miss.
My conviction that I can conquer the world, run for Congress, discover great things, and dance at my children’s wedding.
My lightheartedness, and the ability to just enjoy a summer afternoon without stopping at least once to think “I could have missed this.”
My innocence. I now have nineteen friends who I travel this road with, who all are fighting this fight, and I know there are hundreds and thousands more out there who need to find their own comrades in this battle, who need to understand that they are not alone out there. That there are other mothers who fight these battles … physically … and mentally. That we can be strong for our children but weak among friends. That the fight is not over the day of the clean scan, much as we wish it to be so.
And when we lose one of our own, the tears rip open the scars again, and the sorrow threatens to overwhelm the joys of living. For Andrea, Punk Rock Mommy, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer just thirty-nine days before I was. We fought this war together, every post, every needle, every appointment up until very recently. And now, I’m well.
And she is gone.
It doesn’t make sense. It just does. not. make. sense.
It leaves me with more questions than answers, particularly as I read her husband’s loving words and see the pictures of her six children. Why is this disease so aggressive? Why don’t we yet have a cure? Why do some people get cancer, anyway?
I wring my hands, desparate to do something to make it better. But some things just can’t be made better.
Some scars still hurt long after the pain is gone.