It is early evening. The lights of the Capitol reflect on the still surface of the lake. The ship in port glows at the dock. The mist rises up from the field as we drive by on our way home from dinner, my daughter beside me in the car, budding into her sweet adolescence. All of this beauty.
And I burn.
For it is now that I understand it. Now that I want to drink it in, absorb it through every pore. Now that it finally makes sense to me. And even now that it may slip away.
I am angry at this cancer. This insidious disease that can take away the beauty, that has taken it away from so many others. So many of us who did nothing to warrant its attention, its choice to include us in its community.
I read and re-read all of those guidelines for living a healthful life, and the anger surges. Wasn’t I one who did those things, who went for the bike rides and climbed the trees, who ate the raw kale for lunch at work, who never spent her Friday nights imbibing in bars. Didn’t I fight for good sleep even as my children cried in the night? Haven’t I refused to block drafts in the house so we don’t live in a chemical box? I’m one who has walked when she could have driven, who’s repulsed by the cell phone and electrical towers, who lifted the weights and assumed the yoga positions, who went for all the check-ups and talked about the stresses of life. Yes, I’m female and growing older, and yes, I had my children late. But none of those other risk factors apply to me.
But still, I become its victim, and feel its threat to take away the beauty of my life.
And I refuse.
I refuse to let it steal the moments of joy, the chance to see my son kick the summer soccer ball, my daughter’s brilliant smile, even with the braces. I intend to see them become, to see them eventually placed into the hands of someone else who dearly loves them. To see my own possibility, when I’ve only begun to blossom again after the years of self-denial demanded by responsibility.
The Buddhists say that life is suffering, that through pain we find joy, and maybe that’s why cancer came to visit me, to remind me to see it. To see beauty. And to not forget it in the bustle of daily life. The pink dogwoods on the brink of bursting into the delicate flowers that float on the branches. The frog’s spring song. Their life resonates in mine.