I have made a living with words for the better part of 30 years. I started out, in 1989, as a proofreader for a publishing company in Phoenix that specialized in video magazines and catalogs (remember those?). Three years later, I was Managing Editor of the whole shebang. I had shown an aptitude for writing engaging synopsis for feature films produced by the large studios in Hollywood.
That skill also allowed me to work my way into the ranks of Paramount Pictures marketing and public relations department. A gig that opened doors I never dreamed existed, working for every major, and several independent, studio, writing press releases, media alerts and the coveted media kits.
I parlayed those skills into a long productive run writing feature articles, celebrity interviews, columns, reviews, essays and more, for national and regional periodicals. I was in demand and making a pretty damn good living with my words. It was a great time to be writer and not a bad run for a guy who grew up in a tiny village in southwestern New Mexico.
I mention all that because, right now I find it very hard to put into words the experiences and emotions surrounding the end of my three-year struggle with cancer, and where I currently find myself on the journey. I think that last part is the most troublesome for me. Not because I don’t know what to say, so much as I don’t know how to say it. I can’t find the words…
After several months of intensive therapy, I am learning how to live again. I’m learning how to accept and enjoy every moment. More importantly, I am learning how to put the pain and depression behind me. Things were really rough there for a while. I started off trying to document my journey, here in my blog, only to find that I really didn’t want to talk about it after a while. I just wanted it to be over.
Consequently, I stopped blogging and began posting short fictions – trifles, really – in an attempt to disguise my anxieties and fears. It was a very dark time. I closed myself off to the world around me and, for the first time in three decades, I stopped writing. In retrospect, it was only a matter of months that I occupied this crepuscular locus, but it had been building for two and a half years and the bottom of the barrel is still the bottom.
Hindsight is always better understood than the chaos of living in the maelstrom of the moment. We all know this to be true. But finding the words to express how it feels to survive something like that and come out the other side with the surprising capacity to truly enjoy life again, that’s a little more difficult. Not impossible, just… difficult. Especially with so much uncertainty about whether or not IT will someday return.
I can use glowing metaphors about emerging from a long dark tunnel into the light, or pushing my way up through the dirt like a seedling, but none of them really encapsulate what I’m feeling. The ecstasy of waking up every morning, eager to begin the day. The pleasures of getting my hands dirty as I coax my long-neglected gardens back to life. The joy of dancing alone to my favorite songs and hearing them, as if for the first time. These experiences only scratch the surface.
But before I am relegated to the head case section, I also have to make it clear that there were a lot of reasons for my degenerating condition, many of them chemical. The drugs I was forced to take, the quarterly injections, the lingering effects of radiation, these things complicated my situation considerably. They attacked my mojo center and left me adrift in unfamiliar waters. I was lost, confused and very, very distressed. That’ll make anybody depressed.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a large and loving support network surrounding me – thank all the feral gods for that. I don’t think I could have survived without my family and friends. But there’s something about having a large and meaningful part of yourself taken away. Switched off. Cold turkey. It’s unpalatable and dispiriting. It changes the way one looks at the world, for the worst. Now that I no longer have to deal with those things, I really do feel as if I’m emerging from a fog and truly appreciating the world around me.
The ordeal itself I’m finding it easier to describe. The experience of trudging through two years of heavy-duty medical procedures is so much easier to talk about now that they’re over. The journey I’ve taken over the last six weeks or so, not so much. I’ve only just begun that sojourn. The sensations I am experiencing are still raw and unquantifiable. I fully expect to learn so much more about this road less travelled. Hopefully, in time, I’ll be able to find the words to describe that, too.