Since I was not fast enough to get rid of a particularly nasty bit of heartlessness, some of your eyeballs were exposed to the putrid words left by certain excuses for human beings who read “Make Yourself Fortunate”. I wish to request (of those of you who read the comments) that you don’t share the persons’ names. No, I’m not trying to protect those slugs. I am not that nice. But I believe that sort of people is best ignored. We can—and should—remember the lessons carved by their lack of humanity. But… like Gunny Highway says to Profile in Heartbreak Ridge, “Don’t give the prick the satisfaction” of receiving any claimable attention.
I won’t share all they said, but here is some of it: “Recognizing you’re as weak as everyone else will help you in the long run. No one can fake forever. I’m sorry that you had to get cancer to learn but better late than never. I’ll pray for you. But that’s not always enough. Pray for your own salvation. If you accept we are here to serve His will I know He will listen. Sometimes we need to fall to remember our place.”
The rest includes so much gloating that for a second, I was certain this person was joking. But the punchline never came. Nope, not even after I reread it a couple of times. Once I deleted the comment and emailed those of you who raged at the idiot on my behalf, I did a lot of thinking, tried to figure out what could motivate a soul to act in such a way towards another. At first, I thought, It’s fear. [This individual] is just scared. Cancer (even someone else’s cancer) can terrify people to the point they stop using their brain. But a follow up message, freed me from my unjustified attacked of kindness. “Afraid to let others tell you how they really feel about you? That won’t help you. Maybe you need to ask yourself why you got the cancer in the first place. I’m not your enemy. I’m trying to help you.”
If you are both amused and disgusted by the last bit, you aren’t alone. But don’t let it trouble your heart or mind. It is not troubling mine. On the contrary, I’m grateful. You see, one of the eyeballs who got to read the stinky tripe before I could delete it is the child of one of the tripe-spewers, someone who has been trying to sweet-talk me into allowing her parent back into my life since the first day I said goodbye.
The most devastating part about this whole thing is that “Make Yourself Fortunate” was not even inspired by my experience alone. It was the result of a conversation I had with someone who is having a terrible time dealing with the physical effects of her breast cancer diagnosis. We were waiting to get fitted for lymphedema sleeves, when she burst into tears. I didn’t know her, but she was sobbing so violently that I hugged her anyway. She clung to me. And I had to bite my cheek and tongue not to cry with her (when I cry, I bleed through my nose… and have problems breathing). She said that therapy isn’t working, that her family and friends don’t get it, that she feels so alone. She asked me what I did to keep from going crazy. “You’re young”, she said. “They said it’s harder for me because I’m young. But you’re young too.”
I can’t quite remember everything I said to her. I mostly rambled… and patted her back. But I let her know that I’ve been sick for a long time and I think that readied me for this. Also—and I suspect this might not have helped a whole lot—I told her that I’ve been known to enjoy a good brawl. Cancer might not be something we can always defeat, but we can drop him on his ass for a round (or more) even if we lose teeth, boobs, hair, and friends we thought we had… in the match.
My response to her fed most of the previously cited poem, especially this bit:
…misfortune claims [you]
craft wild new ways
to show your teeth—
make yourself fortunate
again, again, again…
I almost didn’t publish this post—I didn’t like some of the energy fueling it. Then, I remembered a poem bit I wrote three weeks or so ago… and changed my mind:
Malice wears masks
to keep from the looking glass
the worst of its rot.
The thought behind those three lines reminded me just how important it is to share certain terrible truths: there are too many people out there who use religion, social norms, and an individual’s state of mind to manipulate him or her into feeling like less. We can’t allow that kind of scum to think that we don’t know what they’re up to; or, that we can’t fight them. We can (and will) fight and defeat them! Together, we must show them that their self-righteousness won’t be allowed to suck the light out of our wonder and fierceness and hope and hunger… for life. We can see under their masks, can’t we? And we know that their sort is weak, weak, weak… even if their tongues can be dangerous (if we don’t cut them off). So… chop-chop-chop to you, despicable scum… first you choke, choke, choke… and then you are gone. 😉
My mastectomy incision starts at the center of my chest and ends about an inch into my axilla. The armpit stitches are uncomfortable and… painful. But the mastectomy pillow my Mother-in-Law crafted for me makes it all so much easier. The fabric is super gentle on my traumatized flesh and the pillow keeps the skin on skin (& hair, did I mention that I can’t shave?) contact from torturing me. Yay! for soft miracles.
That’s the thing about cancer and other horrors. They don’t only bring curses into our lives, they bring blessings too: they provide new reasons for us to love people we already loved, they help us start loving people we were not even sure we liked, and yes… troubling times of this sort help us get rid of maliciousness that pretends to be kindness. As Audre Lorde suggests, in The Cancer Journals, cancer can be “another weapon, unwanted but useful.” My armor keeps growing… stronger.