Editor’s note: Elizabeth Churchill began writing her blog in 2006 after a grapefruit-sized tumor wedged between her lungs was diagnosed as a malignant highly aggressive stage IV lymphoma. Before her cancer diagnosis, she was the author of a horticultural column, an avid weightlifter, and a homeowner with a beautiful garden north-east of New Orleans. Once she started treatment, she couldn’t work, her relationship with her fiancé ended, and she became so in debt she had to sell her home to pay the bills. Unemployed and with no health insurance, Churchill (pictured here with her two dogs) started writing to keep family and friends informed and herself sane. Here, we excerpt a few of her entries.
This happens a lot: Friends and relatives will be talking to me, and will mention in passing some personal problem or worry or obstacle that has recently popped up in their lives. And then suddenly, they cut themselves short and quickly apologize. “Oh I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even bring this up,” they say, looking chagrined. “I mean, I know it’s nothing compared to cancer.”
I’m not sure they believe me when I try to tell them how wrong they are. It’s not nothing, no matter how trivial, not to me anyway. I haven’t relocated to some alien universe where only people with cancer have a right to complain, or feel discouraged, or depressed, or whatever.
Will anyone ever believe me if I tell them that the cancer is often the least of my worries? It’s serious and all, sure, and the process of dealing with it continues to drain me. But most of the time I feel like the cancer is just annoying background noise, like living next to a freeway or an airport. Or maybe both at the same time. You hate it, yeah, but you get used to it. And it certainly doesn’t drown out the rest of your life’s woes.
In all honesty, I feel more debilitating anxiety over my financial disaster; deeper heartache over my foundering relationship; greater terror over the state of the world. A few weeks ago I nearly died, and it was a frickin’ migraine that brought me to my knees. Not the stage IV cancer or its barbaric chemotherapy. A weasely little migraine.
Maybe only people who’ve experienced both cancer and severe migraines can really appreciate the irony.
But please: dear friends, dear relatives, dear total strangers on the internet, don’t be intimidated by this hideous cancer beast. Continue to feel free to grouse at length around me about your own personal issues and challenges! I am so tired of being the only person in the room who isn’t a frickin’ trooper. I feel isolated enough as it is. Please, somebody join me.