My cancer was so easy that I got embarrassed telling people I had cancer; depending on their sensitivity and sobriety levels, they immediately said something along the lines of OMG ARE YOU OKAY/ARE YOU GONNA DIE? The easiest way to deal with this was to say: Calm it, bitch, I ain’t even gon’ lose my hair. Now that I think about it though, it may have been an upside to lose my hair because a. I could wear a sweet blond wig and b. I could find out what my true hair color is! (Never dye your hair, kids, don’t do it.)
The upsides of cancer aren’t spoken about often, but they definitely exist. I was lucky to have cancer during my birthday season. (My birthday deserved a season. I had cancer.) And boy, did the extra gifts pour in. I received no empty Happy Birthday cards that year; even distant relatives stashed a $5 bill in there! And we all know that opening a card without cash in it is is one of the worst feelings in world. (Besides after actually finding out you have cancer and, like, death or something.)
And best of all, my parents sent me to St. Maarten for my birthday! With my boyfriend! I can imagine how that conversation would have went PC (pre-cancer).
Me: Can you pay for my ticket to St. Maarten so I can frolic in the surf and sand, miss four days of classes, and share a hotel room with my boyfriend?
Mom: Drops dead or slaps me in the face and screams HELL NO, STUPID ASS!
But during cancer season, it was determined I deserved a vacation. To relax. Rewind. Share a hotel room with a boy.
After St. Maarten and surgery, I had to undergo a treatment called radioactive iodine to rid my body of the cancer cells. I was sent to nuclear medicine to learn more about the treatment. The Russian doctor/nuclear bomber went on for over an hour and half (during which I really had to pee and could not focus) telling me how the radioactive iodine works, the side effects, the possible infertility and more depressing things that I quickly tuned out due to the fact that I could not understand much of what he was saying. His monologue was probably the worst part of the whole cancer experience. Dude had a thicker accent than Putin for Chrissake! How the hell am I supposed to focus on my defective reproductive organs if I’m picturing the guy in a Russian trappers’ hat, staring longingly into Sarah Palin’s window?
Because of the iodine dose I was given, I had to be in isolation and couldn’t eat off of paper plates (I also had to flush the toilet six times when I peed). If I used plastic or paper utensils, Homeland security would detect radioactivity off of my plates in the garbage dump and arrest me for terrorism. And while that would bring me the fame and notoriety I’ve always dreamed of, I decided to play it safe and listen to Dr. Radioactive Russian’s instructions.
After his spiel, I entered an iron-clad room to take the pill. Dr. RR was there, along with a radiation safety officer, who had a gun. (He should have shot me then.) The pill came out of a large silver box that was padlocked because of the drug’s insane toxicity. Dr. Radioactive Russian handed me the pillow and a tape measure and then ran exactly fifteen feet away. The officer, Dr. RR, and another random guy in a lab coat all stared at me, creating a moment of intense suspense, as I swallowed down the horse pill. Then they all scattered like I had let one loose or something! (Come to think of it, if I had farted, it probably would have formed into a toxic cloud over Manhattan.)
After standing the necessary amount of feet from me, my mother proceeded to attempt to give me pneumonia by driving with all of the windows down from NY to central NJ. I don’t know if it was the radioactive medicine coursing through my body or the NJ Turnpike, but I was convinced I smelled of toxic chemicals.
When I got home, I was ushered up to my isolation chamber, where my father had installed a flat screen TV and cable (love you, cancer). I had plenty of visitors, who had to sit far away from me or talk to me from the hallway. Everyone felt horrible that I was in isolation but secretly, I cherished the quiet. And since I couldn’t get out of bed, my mom became my personal bitch. (I’m sorry—butler!)
I was gifted with DVD sets, books, and Wii games. I watched hours of mindless television without anyone bothering me to exercise or go outside or feel the disgusting chill of fresh air. It was almost as good as St. Maarten.
Three years post-diagnosis, I’ve faced serious medical issues and depression. And, worst of all, treatment-induced adult acne. Seriously, it’s like ZITTY CITY on my face. I look like a prepubescent teenager who eats a pound of chocolate a day and plays Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve been to ten doctors, kept Clean and Clear in business during a recession, and switched my makeup, but it won’t go away. Good thing I’m not that vain, or else this might really bother me.
Having cancer taught me a lot of things such as:
1. Be nicer, or people won’t even care if you die. 2.Telling ugly men that you’re radioactive is a good way to get them NOT to hit on you at a bar. 3. Prepare an awesome musical playlist for your funeral just in case you die and they play some gospel shit instead. 4. Be grateful for the disease, for it not only gets you an obscene amount of attention, but allows you to stop and realize the very fleeting nature of this life. For a minute. And then three years pass and you kind of forget. Ah, life.