Coming out of the haze I am beginning to see what I really went through. The past seven, months -- well actually eight if I started from the day I found the lump -- were sort of a whirlwind of insanity, and the past four were basically a total blur. Did all of this really happen? I got cancer and had my breast cut off and let the doctors inject me with poisons for four months which caused me to lose my hair, nearly shit my pants every half hour, puke from the depths of my soul-- or at least feel like I might at any given moment--, lose my period (which is the least of my vaginal issues), get hot flashes left and right, possibly lose my ability to ever get pregnant and have my own baby (which I spared my left breast in order to breast feed), lose nearly all sensation in my toes and fingers that may or may not return any time soon, lose mobility in my right shoulder, get dizzy spells, have trouble seeing straight, feel weak and tired most of the day, get severe and crippling joint pain so bad that I have to walk with a cane, feel like my skin is too tight all over, forget things constantly, get confused easily, misspell words I know really well, and overall feel completely crappy and be forced to sit around watching movies and TV for days and days in between the screaming in agony and the crying for my dead mommy to come and take care of me. And now I feel like that cartoon character who was hit the head with an anvil or a frying pan and is shaking it off and trying to regain balance; all the little birdies tweeting around my head in a circle.
How the hell have I gotten through this? It really is like war. I mean I say that, I have said that before, but now I see it from a little bit farther away and it makes more sense. It’s like a Monet painting: it looks clearer when you back up a little bit and look at it from across the room. I’m standing back right now, almost three weeks out of chemo, and about to return to the chemo room for my tri-weekly Herceptin injection, weeks away from new boobs, and I’m scared shitless. I’m scared for me. I’m scared for anyone who has or ever has to go through this shit. I’m scared of the future, sure, but I’m more scared of the past. It’s this thing I do all the time where I decide to do something and I have all this drive and determination and I go do it and everyone around me says I’m brave or crazy and I don’t care because it’s something I want so badly I just decide to go get it. Then, when I’m all done, I sit back for little bit and at some point it hits me that the shit I just did was fucking terrifying but I did it before I had time to be afraid; or maybe I had so little idea of how terrifying it was so I just leapt right in. Like when I went skydiving for my 30th birthday and my initial parachute didn’t fully open so we had to use the back up one. The idea of jumping out of a moving plane way up in the sky is rather nuts in itself but a malfunctioning parachute adds a certain element of “Marie’s Crazy Life” to it (not to be confused with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) that goes just a few steps beyond explainable. But hell I did it and I wasn’t scared until April and my birthday’s in February. Then there was that time when I went to Europe by myself for two months. It seemed completely normal at the time, I planned it all out so well and spent the summer over there; I went to eight countries, twenty-two cities in just over seven weeks all alone, but by the end of winter I looked back at it and thought: Holy shit, I did that! I’ve been doing shit like this all my life and didn’t realize it. When I was in elementary school I remember the day of the talent show in second grade: they called my name as a performer and took me to get prepared. My whole class looked totally shocked and I kind of recall being surprised myself even though I knew it was going to happen. I swear I can’t even remember signing up to be in it and I never really prepared my act, I just planned to sing my favourite song and I knew it so well so I figured that’s all I needed. I had no idea the reality that there would be 100 people watching me, including all the asshole kids in my class who hated me already and my mean big sister. I’m not sure what I was thinking because this was ammo for them all to torment me with forever, but I got up there and sang “On Top of Spaghetti” in front of that whole school. The fear hit me once I realized what I’d signed up for, and I stared at the floor the whole time I sang, but I must have been fearless and determined when I signed up.
And since then I’ve been doing weird shit like that all my life, either on the small scale or on the larger one. Hell, my whole life is like that! I’m trying to become an actor and expect to get paid for it. Sure I know I’m good enough to get paid for it; hell I’m better than half the people who do get paid for it, but is this whole profession not a total joke? How do people make it at all? The funny thing is I don’t see any other choice. I never really did before either, but after cancer I see nothing else but acting. I’d rather be dead than work a desk job 9-5 or, even though I love kids and loved teaching, I can’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life. I need to be on stage. Not for the attention or the acclaim, but for the work and the constant focus it requires; for the ability to have control of my choices and actions but never really be in control of anything because you never know what my happen on stage. I love the working and re-working of the scenes, of the lines, right down to every single word I say having a real purpose and a true intention behind it. That’s why I chose life when I got cancer: because it is my life. I can act without my boobs; I can be an actor with fake boobs. There sure are a lot of other ones out there and they aren’t as talented as me, so maybe my fake tits and my talent will make me stand out above the actors who only have the fake tits. A girl can hope.
So was my crazy head-first behaviour a sort of preparation for cancer? Or a preparation for acting? Or maybe my cancer was a preparation for acting. Or maybe my acting was the preparation for cancer. Fuck! I don’t know. I’m still forging my way out of the haze. All I do know is that having cancer and getting through all this shit I’ve been through has only made me more determined to be a professional actor; it’s all I want. Well, it’s all I want to want but thanks to the damn faerie tales I was read as a kid I’ll admit I’m still waiting for Prince Charming to show up and rescue me. I would like to not be waiting for that and only be focused on acting but I can’t seem to shut off the lonely so I’ll just have to ignore it and dive head first into every possible piece of work I can. I have one more year to learn and bust my ass as a student and I plan to make the most of it before I dive head first into the real world of the aspiring actor. Or in my case “actress” which is just a demeaning term really; it implies diva or bitch, and I’d rather play one on stage than be one in life.
Nope, as the haze is lifting and I’m seeing clearer, I know I want to breathe more and be happy more. I’m only lonely because I believe I am so why not choose to believe I’m not? I am choosing to ignore and erase the mean, negative and unavailable people from my life and be grateful that I still have a life and that the people in it who have stuck around and have been rooting for me from day one are the people I deserve to know, and the kind of people I choose to be around. Like R.E.M. said: “Why Not Smile?” --- they also said “It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I feel Fine,” which is somewhat equally fitting. This may explain why R.E.M. is still my favourite band after all these years: they are both inspiring and right on target! But thanks to chemo I can’t remember if they have a song about climbing out of the haze… if they do it’s totally my anthem for the current moment. Once the fog clears I’ll be walking straight forward to reach my goals. In the meantime I know what I want but I might be heading towards it like a blind man on a staircase; but that’s okay because I’m alive! Insert Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now" here. :)