Greetings from the Unknown

unknownheader-e1467041729669As a society, we can’t help but have a fascination with the unknown; it’s human nature to want to be able to answer questions we don’t (or won’t) have the answers to, and use every tool at our disposal to break down those walls and remove any uncertainty. Spoiler Alert: I don’t profess to know what the hell I’m talking about, but if I were to hazard a guess, perhaps it’s because the unknown scares us – it takes away that sense of control we so love, and leaves us at the whim of the forces of nature. Whether it’s pondering the ever-expanding universe or why your newest crush has yet to text you back, the unknown always has the one up. While I’m currently burdened with many unknowns, the one that is burdening me most is, cancer.

In February, I noticed something strange was going on with my body. As I lay on the floor, forcing myself to complete the series of core exercises I had set out to do, I realized that my lower left abdomen had a rock hard lump. I was slightly taken aback, but honestly assumed it was due to my recent peanut butter intake, which let me just say, was rather impressive. I had a routine check-up with my gynecologist in just a few weeks, so I thought, no need to panic, I’ll get my questions answered then. But, I didn’t.

As the weeks went by, I grew more anxious about this mysterious little alien. The unknown was officially keeping me up at night. I waited on ultrasound results, that led to an MRI, and then a phone call from my doctor asking me to come in to discuss the results the following Monday. I spent that weekend distracting myself with friends and wine, while also trying to take what I had learned from reading half of The Secret and asking the universe to please make everything just be okay.

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Photos by Ema Walters

I always assumed that if I was ever told I had cancer, I would lose the ability to hear, that reality would slip away and — I’d go into a soundless cocoon, safe from having to hear the rest of the diagnosis — but that’s not what happened at all. I was laser focused (albeit shocked and not immune to a flood of emotions). My doctor eased me into it and I nodded stoically for a good, solid 40 seconds, but sure enough once the “c” word was mentioned I dissolved into what I can only imagine was something akin to a shaking chihuahua, gasping through sporadic bursts of tears (all the while apologizing for the scene I was making, like the true Canadian I am). The week that followed can only be described as a roller coaster ride – with the highs being I forgot I was ill, and the lows being me remembering, and having no idea what was going on or what was to come.

Once I was finally told, “Yes, you have ovarian cancer, we’re going to do surgery and go from there”, I felt such relief.

For me, all I wanted was a definitive answer as to what was growing inside of me, and what the plan was to eradicate it. As someone who hates waiting and is overly analytical, these answers eased my mind immensely. Now that I knew what was going on, the next step (which I had been all too happy to postpone) had arrived – telling my friends and family. I drafted individual texts to my nearest and dearest, and come Sunday night (I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s weekend) fired off these bad news bears tidings. The responses I received, although overwhelming, were so incredibly sweet, loving, and positive – many of my friends pretended to be resistant to the unknown (bless) and repeated over and over again that I would obviously be fine, that of course I was going to be okay. They scoffed in the face of the unknown, my tumour (now better known as Gary), and if they were scared for me? They didn’t let it show.

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Others reacted with more emotion than even I have, which has been difficult – there is nothing worse than watching your words so deeply upset a loved one, even though it’s out of your control. But I get it – the unknown strikes again! Being on the outside of a friend’s struggle leaves you feeling completely helpless, full of questions and worry; not being able to talk about it the way you’d like to, because at the end of the day, it isn’t about you or what you want. You’re not sure how to help, or if you’re saying the right thing, or behaving properly – and have absolutely no control over the situation. This leaves you burdened with a second-hand unknown, which in my opinion, is much more difficult. It’s not easy or fair, but that’s just how the unknown works.

I’d like to think I’ve completely adjusted to the unknown, but the truth is, that when I’m alone and actually let my new reality sink in, the unknown continues to haunt me.

Questions that I’m just going to have to “wait and see”. Serious questions like – am I going to be able to have children? Is it going to come back? And of course, the question that is honestly too terrifying and ridiculous to dwell on, let alone say out loud. Despite the fear and uncertainty, I believe there’s always room for levity and less serious questions such as – once Gary is gone, will my skinny jeans fit again? When will I be able to go out for drinks with that cute dude I’ve been texting? Finally, does this mean I can now justify remaining horizontal and binge watching The OC for the millionth time?

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When it comes down to it, we’re all just stuck with our own burdens, our own uncertainties, and the best we can do is lean on one another, in whatever way works, to just get through it. While I’m feeling like I’ve been thrown onto a white water rafting trip I never signed up for, surely my friends and family feel stuck in that raft along with me (sorry guys!). I’m learning it might just be best to throw our hands up, give in to the unknown, and go for this scary, surreal, and wild ride together. If that doesn’t work? You can always just read the rest of The Secret, right?

Originally Published on Kastor & Pollux

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