Facebook. Don’t you love it? Our best faces forward, selected shots of our lives displayed in a collage of how we imagine we’d like to be seen. Smiley happy people.
Or are we?
I struggled with writing this because I do want everyone to think we’re smiley happy people and that everything is perfect. But the truth is, it’s not always that great. It may be a blessing in many ways to be confronted with death, but let’s face it, mostly it’s bloody terrifying and nightmarish. I feel like I’m always complaining about something or slapping people in the face with cold reality. But stronger then the desire to make others smile and laugh and feel reassured, is the burning belief that the truth should be told, especially when it comes to this horrendous disease.
We drove past a fatal car crash on the way back from Taupo this Easter. I’m an emotional soul, and I couldn’t help but try and put myself into the awful shoes of those experiencing the horror. Yes, it was hard, and sad and dreadful, but I felt it would be much worse to squash those feelings down and pretend they didn’t exist. To feel nothing. Don’t we do enough of that already? We have to, or how else would we cope with the endless tide of war, death, disease, starvation, destruction, and Donald Trump’s crazy hair and outdated ideas? And the plus side of being a thinking and feeling being is that we also get to feel joy, elation, excitement, relief, and LOVE.
So I’m putting it out there. Yes, we have a lot of good times, and I’m so grateful that Nige is in remission and that we have the opportunity to live such a special life. For Nige though, every day is still a struggle. It’s not like Facebook. But if I’d put up pictures of Nige bending over puking, sitting down catching his breath, tossing and turning in the middle of the night, or being racked with coughs it would have been a bit strange, and kind of mean. Who wants to be confronted with that over a morning coffee and some jam on toast?
Our family holiday to Taupo on Facebook: Posing as honey bees, yummy cafe meals, fishing, animal farms and loads of fun.
Taupo in reality: Loads of fun, but also: Buying Nige honey because it’s the only thing that helps with his persistent tickly cough; Nige struggling to walk around Lilliput farm; Nige vomiting as we walk around Craters of the Moon – we almost didn’t even make it fishing; Nige agonising over what to eat because nothing appeals; Nige writhing in agony due to severe back pain. All mostly side-effects from long term steroid use and withdrawl symptoms from trying to get off them. (Still no Popeye muscles ;))
I think as victims of cancer, people want to send out positive messages of hope, and we on the other side want to believe these messages. And I’m totally for that. I think it’s really important to have hope. But we still have to face reality, because it’s the horror of a cancer sufferer’s reality that forces us to act in extraordinary ways, to break out of the daily mould for a second, to feel, and to strive to appreciate each day and the people in it you care for.
It’s only a few weeks until Nige’s first scan since remission – already! How time flies when you’ve only been given months to live. And how easy it is to get on with things and forget to cling to each other and each moment as if it’s your last. No matter how many times I remind myself life is short, dredging back up memories of mum and how I only knew her for just under 17 years, I just can’t help glossing over reality and pretending things will go on as they are for ever. It’s a natural state we drift towards.
But the scan-monster is drawing ever-nearer. Nige’s 3 month check up scan. It’s an important one. Winding us in towards another shock wave of truth. Will the wave be warm and comforting or bone-chilling and terrifying? We can only wait and see, and hope that whatever wave comes, our family’s little boat can ride it out until the sea calms and we drift back into everyday.
This is not supposed to be a sob story or a pity party, rather a shout out to all those who smile through the pain, whilst the battle rages behind, just out of frame.
This is then a shout out to everyone – for all those suffering from the human condition.
I think we are all a bit worried that others are doing things better than us, that we missed the memo with instructions for an easier, smoother, trouble-free existence. Maybe it comforts to know that struggles are not unique. It allows us to spill forth in relief that dirty and tightly held secret that we haven’t got it all together after all. We fight with our husbands and wives, yell at our kids, don’t brush our teeth, spend more than we earn, worry that we’re too fat/thin/ugly/stupid/mean/short/tall, that we stand out in some negative and unforgivable way.
But I say fly that dirty laundry like it’s the new New Zealand flag – I bet what’s on your washing line is no worse than what’s on your neighbours.
Fly that shit, air it out and then set it free.