I want to hate you. I do. I want to KICK your ass with everyone cheering me on. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT you as the enemy. I want to beat on you with a baseball bat, gloved fists, booted feet. You have stolen seven organs from my family in 18 months. You have halted my life. Cut me open, raw, 7-inch scar left in your wake. Toxic drugs plunging through my veins. Shrunk my beloved palate and plate. Messed with my hormones. Forced me to quit working. Changed so much of my life. You're still stealing from my dad. You've already taken enough from my sister. I want to hate you.
But I can't. I can't hate you. Ohhhhhhh, how I want to hate you. I want to hate you like any soldier wants to hate the enemy. Fired up, guns loaded. Until that moment when you look into the enemy's eyes and realize they're the same as your own. And the hate is gone, just like that. Changes everything. Because you aren't a foreign bacteria. Nor a parasite from South America. You are me and I am you. My own cells, gone rogue. My own CELLS transforming, converting, MUTATING into poison. You're certainly smart little fuckers. You know how to feed, grow, and spread so intelligently that nobody can stop you even after billions of dollars have been spent trying to destroy you.
How do I hate you when you were once healthy little cells, lovely little mitochondria intact and functioning normally? How can I hate something that sprouted from my own DNA? The same DNA I share with my wonderful family? The same DNA that makes me a fast runner, like my dad, and share the same voice as my sister? Hating you would be like hating my own sick child. I can't.
I can't hate my own little cells. And now, I don't have the energy to fight you even if I wanted to. I have to allocate my energy every single day. I have to make conscious decisions about every single activity, each bite of food, which exposure to germs. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Because you have taken over my life. It would be easy to become resentful - bitter and pissed off. But then I think of how I would treat a sick child, no matter what she had. How I would rub her forehead, make her chicken soup, let her watch cartoons. And I realize I have to do the same thing for my own little cells. I have to care for you, all of you, cancerous or not. I have to nurture you back to health. I have to feed you good food. Watch silly YouTube videos that make me laugh. Keep my body and mind as strong and positive as possible. That's how I'll win this war. Nurturing, laughing, loving.
You've taken a lot from me this year. But you have also given me hard-earned wisdom. And one nugget I've taken to heart is to not waste energy fighting, especially an enemy that does not exist. If I can - and I'm really struggling to do this, but determined - I want to love and nurture you back to health, little cancer cells. I want to learn how to make you whole again, for me and for my family. I want to stay in the light, not cross over to the darkness. More than anything, I want to live. Which is why I can't hate you, Cancer. You are me, and I am you. I'm going to love you back to health, dammit. I can do this.
Julie Negrin M.S. has been a certified nutritionist, cooking instructor, and program developer for over 15 years. She is a four-time cancer survivor due to a genetic condition called Lynch Syndrome. This experience has fueled her passion to develop resources for cancer patients to tackle both the physical side effects of chemotherapy and the emotional distress of cancer. Learn more about her work at www.julienegrin.com.