I was thinking tonight about how I don’t know how to swim. I’ve always felt like this was a handicap, something that prevented me from living a life of glamorous weekend getaways, cuddling with Phelps abs (not his face, just his abs), fully appreciating the cuteness that is showcased every spring in the swimwear section of J.Crew. I’ve always seen it as a horrible flaw- yet one I’m too scared to overcome.
I’ve never experienced cancer like I am right now. I’ve never had a family member or friend get diagnosed, I’ve never felt engulfed like I do now. Submerged in a whole new world. We are in the process of planning treatment- chemotherapy, radiation, these words form in my mouth and feel strange. Receiving and understanding each new piece of news, feels like drowning- it’s hard to breathe, I can’t move. I feel completely alone, as though I could scream and not a single head would turn. Time stops and the weight of the universe is squarely planted on my chest. And the terror that clutches me? I cannot fathom how to begin to describe it. It pulls me under in ways that leave me exhausted and aching and gasping for air.
The clock ticks.
I learned a long time ago that if you are drowning, you need to be calm. Flailing will not save you. Panic will not increase your odds. Steady thought, positive thinking and calmness will do so much more. So that is what I do. I wait until the moment passes- the moment that seems will never pass and when it does, I rise again- through everything and am ready for what comes next.
And although this news, this new reality pulls me under- by way of unwanted news, careless comments from co-workers, and misguided google searches, motherfuckers- I can float. I may be a little worse for wear, my eyes may be red and there is a tired about me- a nervous exhaustion that isn’t remedied with sleep, but after every dip under the water when I am engulfed- I break free and breathe again. Still going. Still looking for silver linings and great big things to believe in.
This is not brave or courageous or admirable. This is just what happens. This is what you would do too. It i’s human nature to keep going, to figure out how to keep breathing when your heart has stopped. I have learned that I may not be able to swim, but I’m strong enough to float, brave enough to not flail- when the waters get high. And on the scariest days, when the waters are highest and I’m scared of not breathing again? When I’m tired of pulling myself up? I turn to the person who’s with me in this, who fixes it all with a joke and a laugh. The one who best understands how I’m feeling right now. I turn to him, grateful that he is a strong swimmer and I find complete comfort in knowing he’s got my back and that we are in this together. And we will win.