last week, upon receiving the wonderful news of my third clean scan in a row, i should have celebrated. and we did, a little, that night, with a trip to our favorite neighborhood gastropub (the one where kathryn was nearly robbed), where we toasted with tiny, sample-sized glasses of beer. my tolerance for alcohol has evaporated, and with all that’s happened (in particular our discovery that i had hepatitis C), i now limit myself to a few sips of booze at appropriate celebratory moments such as this. as i curtailed my drinking since my diagnosis, the definition of “celebration” has shifted from “it’s friday” to far more momentous occasions. i’ve dealt with a tremendous amount of loss in managing (dare we say, defeating?) my cancer, but the loss of alcohol is one i no longer mourn. given my years behind the bar, my past propensity for heavy drinking and the current fragility of my liver, it’s for the best.
still, the losses add up, and shift, and mystify. i’m plagued by post-treatment migraines – a particularly vicious one laid me out for much of last week. i’m constantly fatigued and have tremendous trouble staying focused, much less planning and multitasking. my career came to a screeching halt, though i’ve made some progress in fits and starts (mostly fits), and subsequently have had to depend largely on the generosity of so many of you – in particular my caring and patient partner.
and now, i’m confronting a new kind of loss: i’ve lost my cancer.
obviously this is a good thing. a very good thing. a miraculously good thing.
but it’s left a hole.
for the past four-plus years, my entire existence was dedicated to fighting cancer: dealing with treatment and its after-effects, organizing my insurance claims and never-ending bills, managing an extensive team of medical specialists and an extensive list of medications, etc. etc. etc.
suddenly, much of that is gone.
so who am i?
i’m picking up the shards of a life mangled by disease, and i’m having a tough time figuring out how all those jigsawed puzzle pieces fit together. there’s no picture on the top of this box to use as a guide, no owner’s manual to troubleshoot this engine light.
and instead of charging forward into the unknown, i’ve spent much of the last year cowering in fear. i’ve written plenty about my paralysis and my severe depression; i’ll spare you the details this time, save to say that the struggle continues. i’m incredibly hard on myself, and when i examine my past, i overlook any successes and focus only my failures. it’s incredibly unhealthy. and it’s an incredibly difficult cycle to break.
i love christmas. i own a santa costume. but this year, i find myself deep in debt with little income beyond the meager installments from social security and a few generous readers who send me regular gifts. being broke at christmas is painful. and the worst part is that i feel so strongly that i’ve brought it on myself. i haven’t worked regularly since christmas two years ago, and my many attempts at gainful employment have ended in disappointment. i’m finding it awfully difficult to see past all that and move forward.
i’m not saying all this because i want your charity; though i’m incredibly grateful for those of who you continue to support me, it’s far past time that i returned to earning my keep. this is an attempt to break out of the wallowing and silence and pain. i’ve spent the morning seeking out work from various sources, hoping that a handful of regular part-time jobs atop my burgeoning painting career can allow me to make ends meet.
so, yes, the rub: i’m looking for work. not anything full-time – though my health is stable, i still have lots of regular visits with doctors, and i get ill far too often. i’d burn through a year’s worth of sick days in three months at a nine to five. but if you’re working on a project and could use a hand, i’d love to be that hand. no job is too small.
it’s time to fix the hole.