Little Cancer Claire

There are two types of people in this world; people who are terrified of those with cancer as if they are going to catch it or those who pity cancer patients and overcompensate by being extremely nice. It’s very rare to find someone who doesn’t treat you differently, because essentially you are still the same. Cancer doesn’t change anything about a person, except maybe their outlook on life.

I happened to get diagnosed in October of 2018 with a rare form of bone marrow cancer. Because of some blood cell abnormalities caused by my genetics, my bone marrow will eventually start scarring, and over time I will be in need of a stem cell transplant. Luckily there was absolutely no scarring present in the painful bone marrow biopsy that took place last year. Nothing about me has changed since the diagnosis. I am the same 22 year old girl, confused about what to do with her life, scared of everything, and still spends most of her time cooped up in her bedroom reading. I may be the same but the people around me are not. It seems like everyone treats me differently when they find out I have cancer. My friends appeared to get squeamish, didn’t know what to say, and started treating me to food and drinks or just stopped hanging out with me all together. Random guys who were interested in me suddenly quit engaging in conversation – I guess cancer made me less appealing. Girls who have always been mean to me are suddenly interested in my life and stopped the rude name calling. My parents didn’t even treat me the same. They felt bad for me so they started to overcompensate by buying everything I wanted, from clothes to books to food. It has become really exhausting.

I’ve spent my entire life being singled out – In elementary school it was because I didn’t look like all the other girls, in high school it was my “slut” reputation and now out of high school its my cancer status. Woe is me, people are tiptoeing around me and giving me what I want. I don’t really mind that much, I mean 99% of the time I know their kindness is fake but who is going to complain about acts of goodwill? What really gets to me is the ones who are fearful of me, like because I have cancer I’m suddenly contagious and if people spend time with me they will somehow catch my bone disease. It confuses me, as soon as people find out about this they think I’m suddenly high maintenance and they can’t deal with it, “it’s just too stressful to deal with right now, as if life isn’t already stressful enough”. I don’t know how many times I have to explain that I’m literally the exact same person I’ve always been.

The only thing that really changed about me was in late November 2018. I experienced something that really opened my eyes to the real world. Let’s start with how I’ve always felt like a child. I live with my parents, I rely on them to drive me around, they cook dinner every night, and my room is the same as it has been since I was 16. It wasn’t until my bone marrow biopsy that I realized I’m not a child anymore. I was laying on the hospital bed, with my back half exposed to at least 4 people, vulnerable and staring into the eyes of my powerless parents. They were standing in the corner watching me lay helplessly while I had a huge needle stuck into my pelvic bone. I wanted one of my parents to hold my hand while all of this happened but they weren’t allowed near me. I was so scared and crying. I wanted them to take the pain away but they couldn’t. They were in that room and I was too but we were miles apart. This moment made me realize we are all alone in this world. Every person has their own experiences and feelings and no one can understand except the person going through it. We all see things differently. No one can take your pain away, no one can feel you sorrow, and no one can feel your happiness and joy. This whole experience made me realize that even if I have a support system, it’s me who is facing these challenges, it’s me who has to go through the chemotherapy and me who has the cancer. I learned I had to toughen up. I had to stop being a child, stop being that baby who my parents take care of and start to do things for myself.

My outlook on life changed – I’m not a child, life goes by so fast, and we need to make the most of it while we can. There is no point in complaining about my cancer or wallowing in my sorrows. It wont change a thing. Thankfully, by the time I’ll need a stem cell transplant, there will be advancements in medicine and technology that may cure my disease pain free. In the meantime, I will be focusing my time on trying to take the stigma away from cancer sufferers – I will try to show people I’m the same girl I’ve always been. People with cancer aren’t going to break if we get hurt or shatter if something bad happens. We just want to be treated like everyone else. Don’t be scared of us, or extra nice because you’re afraid of us. We are a tough group of people, just looking to live our best lives under the unfortunate circumstances life has given us.

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With fear there is growth.

When you’re young everything seems so big. Children have such big dreams and could never imagine what kind of sinister things happen on this earth. Luckily some of us are oblivious, but others come face to face with experiences that later develop into lifelong fears. For some the fear is burning alive, others it’s not finding love, and some are scared of the inevitable, death.

Over time my fears have developed and changed. I used to really fear getting swept away by waves in the ocean and drowning. This stemmed from a vacation my family took when I was 7 years old. I was playing in the ocean for the first time, and to my surprise I got knocked down by a 4-foot wave, panicked and couldn’t breathe. I flailed my arms in despair but no one came to my rescue. Fortunately, I managed to escape the menacing sea and made it back to land. Up until this traumatic day nothing scared me, however after this happened (more than once, may I add) I was absolutely terrified of water. This included hot tubs, wave pools, kiddie pools, and even bathtubs. My fear still stays with me today as I’m scared to do any form of water activity and I must wear a life jacket in all bodies of water. It can get extremely embarrassing. Drowning wasn’t my only fear but it was definitely a predominant one which affected my life.

A new fear developed in the spring of 2018. My life unfortunately went downhill fast. I wasn’t fond of being back in my home town after being gone for so long. I didn’t want to be surrounded by the assholes I left behind – After all I had to deal with them my entire life. I refused to leave my house and couldn’t imagine getting a shitty part-time job and seeing their faces every day. This is when I started to fear the outside world. I was scared of what was outside the four walls of my house. Within months my fear went from running into someone I didn’t want to see to a mild form of agoraphobia (the fear of leaving home). This phobia got so bad I wouldn’t leave the house for days on end, occasionally entire weeks – I wouldn’t even step outside. This isn’t a transformation story because I still have agoraphobia, it’s just gone from bad to worse.

At first, I was scared to leave because every time I left I’d feel sick to my stomach, almost like a form of home sickness. Now every time I leave the house not only do I feel sick but I also have a constant thought running through my head, “what if someone around me has a gun and targets my family and I?”. This thought terrifies me so much that I usually have to leave where I am to calm down. This gets very frustrating when I have to be somewhere, like a doctor’s appointment.

I believe the rationale behind this fear stems from a certain event that went down not long ago. I was sitting in a local fast food chain when a scary looking man walked through the door wearing a clown mask. I’m not privy to people lately, especially men in clown masks. I had my eyes facing the opposite direction of the man when there was a sudden loud bang and bunch of people started screaming and running toward the exit. Now, I normally wouldn’t act so insensitive but I’m fragile, and I never leave my house so I’m always thinking the worst. I immediately thought, “my family and I are going to get shot, we need to leave now”. I pushed and shoved my mother to get out of the booth we were sitting in and I had a small melt down when she wouldn’t get up to leave. I sat in the booth and cried because I was sure at that moment we were in grave danger and my life was over. I have never, in my 22 years felt this bone chilling fear. I can’t seem to shake this feeling and memory from my brain – I even have dreams about it. To this day I’m not sure where the noise came from but I’m glad we didn’t get hurt.

Ever since this incident I haven’t been the same person. I’ve never thought about public and mass shootings, they were just horrible events seen on television in other parts of the world but now it is all I think about. Every time I leave my house I’m looking over my shoulder thinking, “I’m going to be targeted”. I’ve become a paranoid person. I feel insane most days because now I’m more scared than ever to leave my house – as if it wasn’t bad enough before. I hope to slowly come out of my agoraphobic shell and learning how to appreciate what’s around me, not just within the confines of my house. Every single day provides an opportunity to grow and turn this phobia into something I can learn from.

What lies within…

As time goes by and the older I get, the more I realize I will never truly know someone. Every person has secrets, no matter how well you think you know them. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am myself. I lock away my secrets and throw away the key so I don’t even have to accept my embarrassing actions and disturbing thoughts. I chose to deny some of the fucked up thoughts I have, yet I chose to judge those who act on the very thoughts I, myself have had.[

Recently the affair of one of my closest friends, Tulia, had come to light. Tulia was sleeping with the husband of one of my other closest friends, Maisy. Maisy’s husband left her and moved in with his new lover. Talia was now living and sleeping in the very house her best friend once slept in. Of course Tulia and Maisy stopped being friends all together, were fighting constantly, and I was in the middle of it all. I felt awful being forced to pick sides and engage in the drama I never wanted to be a part of in the first place. This was not my battle to fight.

It wasn’t until months after the affair went public that I decided to confront Tulia and tell her that I’d like to be on civil terms. It was very hard because who in their right mind wants to be friends with someone as untrustworthy and cold-hearted as her? But I figured I was a hypocrite if I didn’t accept her.

Maisy’s ex-husband and Tulia’s new boyfriend had been on my mind since I first met him at the young age of 15. I often thought about trying to steal him away from Maisy for myself. Jason and I had always had a connection. He always appeared to be interested in me and hung on my every word. There was something about his smile that was captivating, and I guess I wasn’t the only one who saw that. At one point before Maisy and Jason started dating, I had the pleasure of having sloppy drunken sex with him one frigid evening (this secret stayed between us). Years later when Jason and Maisy got married and moved in together it was hard to spend time with her because I never wanted to go over to their house in fear of running into Jason. I always thought that maybe he belonged with me and not her. I was always left feeling guilty because this wasn’t the way friends were supposed to view other friend’s husbands – what the hell was I thinking?

I often thought, how could I be so quick to judge someone like Tulia, when I myself wanted to do the exact same thing. Am I just as bad as Tulia because I thought about doing what she did? I felt I was too morally conscious to betray a friend so close to me but I still thought about it.  Was I an untrustworthy friend as well? I decided to forgive Tulia for her indiscretion. She may not be the person I thought she was but at least she was true to herself and is living a happy life with Jason. It may not be conventional to outsiders but they are happy which is something I don’t think Jason ever was with Maisy.            

Although I am over the unholy thoughts of Jason, I am always caught in this place where I think I know someone so well, deep into who they are as a person, yet it’s all a front. These are just images people project into the world that others are expected to believe. I thought I knew Tulia well enough to know she wouldn’t betray a friend like this but I didn’t know her at all. I suppose there are plenty of people on earth who think they know me, but they just know the surface me. No one knows what lurks deep within my mind – no one knows what atrocities I have committed throughout the years and I hope no one finds out. Lying is all around us. Secrets are just waiting to surface for the world to find out.