A Reason to Keep Living
This is a piece Elizabeth Blue wrote, from the period when she was going through chemo for the first time. She was being treated for non-hodgkins lymphoma which was diagnosed 2 months earlier. The doctors had told us she had an 85-90% chance of full recovery at this point.
It’s sort of funny this thing when you have cancer. One thing about it is when people are talking about someone who they know who has died recently, usually part of such a story is telling of how they died or what they died from. The funny thing is when you have cancer and someone is telling a story about someone they knew who died from cancer, they chose to omit that detail. And that’s how you can tell. You don’t really want to ask about it (it’s a normal question, ‘how did they die?’) because you can tell and you don’t want to make the person telling the story uncomfortable. You don’t want to make them be the one to say cancer kills to your face.
The funny thing is that when you have cancer, if you’ve had it for any length of time you had to come to grips with dying long ago. You’re sort of over it now (that is if you’ve established that you’re probably not going to die). You’ve dealt with that possibility and, in a sense, moved on. You kinda have to move on. You kinda have to move on from that idea of death if you have any intention or expectation of living. I think of a friend who has cancer (an uncurable kind she will live and die with, but probably has a long time to live). She told me that at first when diagnosed she was very depressed. For about a month all she could do was be sad. And then a friend said to her: “Tita, you can’t die while you’re still living.” And now she sees beauty in everything because it’s what makes her so so happy and want to keep living. I think that’s the thing, you know, you’ve got to find that thing that makes you want to keep living. For Tita it’s beauty.
My Godmother recently asked me what my thing was, that thing that I want to live life for. At my age there are a lot of obvious potentials to want to fulfill. (Having children, a husband, a career, etc.) but these aren’t palpable things you get to experience right away if you beat cancer. They’re a bit far off in the future to put that desire in your hands, a desire strong enough to make you want to live as much or more than you’ve ever wanted anything before.
What came to mind for me was the carnal. Wanting to live long enough to have that amazing feeling of heartbreakingly beautiful sex with a person after you’ve wanted and been imagining it for months.
That’s enough for a twenty-something person to want to keep living another day, truly beautiful sex. It doesn’t even have to be actual sex, it could be just the idea of it. The idea of the hunt or the chase and the exuberant feeling of wanting someone and guessing that they might want you too. Some days that is quite enough to keep me alive.
Elizabeth Blue ©