Life as an Extreme Sport


Everyone says you have to be strong in the face of cancer. Brave and optimistic, you put up this facade in front of everyone; patient, family, friends. And everyone in the house is doing it, straining the mask of proper behaviour to fractures. Because no one wants to burden anyone else, no one wants to be seen as weak, no one wants to have done something wrong.

Mom breaks, sometimes. She’ll see something on TV, or read something, or spend just a little too long along with her thoughts, and then the tears and frustration and despair and fear come pouring out, laced with apology for showing it in the first place. But the rest of us soldier on in our small rooms, alone save whatever furry beasts call us their own.

The stress is taking its toll. My parents have been bickering since I’ve been back, to the point that within 24 hours, over the weekend, I yelled at them both. Dad, for just not listening, and Mom for not letting Dad do anything to help, and faulting him for anything he did (whether it was good or bad). But the stress spreads – I find my temper getting shorter with everyone, friends and colleagues, and being online is a questionable idea. (And oh, my poor boss, who’s received a good chunk of temper, whether he realizes it or not. And lucky, lucky me for having such a dream boss in my life!)

I set up a meditation area in my bedroom last week, thinking that I needed the reminder to sit, to breathe, to center myself. Unfortunately, I’ve managed to get myself so wound up in the short time I’ve been back, with so many different stresses pulling at me at once, that physically staying still long enough to meditate makes me more tense and antsy than any good can cover.

I’m hoping that my 36 hour escape to Seattle later this week will give me the chance to take a deep breath and let the fractures settle back around me. That I’ll be able to unwind, laugh, relax in the company of people I’ve known for years. Where there are injokes that I’m a part of, and the last thing I need to worry about is, well, anything.

Of course, since I’ve already managed to tie myself in such a tight knot, I am worrying that returning to Seattle for the first time since moving in June will be the very wrong thing to do. That I will either be homesick, or…maybe worse…discover I don’t miss anything about it at all.

The sound of the TV is drifting down the stairs into my room, the low strains of my iPod and purring cats drowned by vague baritones and canned laughter. I keep drifting off to sleep with the rhythm of my breathing, only to have a particularly high-pitched noise snap me back awake. It’s a state I’ll drift in until my parents go to bed; too tired to do anything but lay here until sleep sticks and 5am comes. Lay here in my fractured pieces, knowing everyone is suffering from the stress, and no one is talking.