“I Have Cancer to Thank for Many Things”

So Susan’s journals were sporadically written, to say the least. From October, 2016, to December, 2019, it seems that she didn’t keep any journals at all. Any that I’ve found, anyway. And I don’t anticipate finding anything else.

Then, in 2019, her journals changed quite a bit in scope and subject matter. She joined a writer’s workshop, and her entries became longer, more personal and more political at the same time. More manifesto-ish. There was philosophy interspersed with personal observation ladled with a soupçon of anger, frustration, and regret. It was sometimes rough, often raw, and always real.

This next short exerpt was from her last journal entry in 2016.

2016 October 25

Discipline. Something I lack. It is already after midnight, so technically the 26th, but I wanted to get something in for the day for blog posts to write.

  • BC: before children, before [financial] crash, before cancer
  • life and perception-shattering events in my life

    Gifts of cancer
    I have cancer to thank for many things, including
  • power to see people
  • courage to speak out
  • appreciation for fragility and capriciousness of life
  • urgency of now
  • dissatisfaction with superficial
  • purpose
  • scars/love of my body
  • removing filters – people express love
  • acceptance

Hard to believe that she was writing about the gifts of cancer, but that’s just how Susan was. Then the loooong gap, and the return to journaling. Here she is writing about our first trip to Turkey, and discovering that she was pregnant with our first child.

December 29, 2019
Writing Workshop 

Landing in Istanbul airport from Budapest, queing to get the $2 tourist visa late at night. The taxi brings us toward the city and I can see the lights of Hagia Sofia and Sultanahmet, the old town in the distance. This long-awaited and much-planned holiday is one Matt and I have been anticipating for months. Dropped off on a cobblestone street, we have to walk a bit to our hotel, surrounded by the twinkling of lights and minarets. We are greeted in the morning by the proprietor who shows us a lavish breakfast spread full of color and scents that are the essence of the Mediterranean. Ripe, juicy watermelon, varieties of olives I’ve never seen, and feta, tomatoes, yogurt. The hospitality and breakfast are delectable, but somehow I am not feeling well. My stomach is unsettled. A wave of nausea overcomes me. How long has it been? We’ve been trying, so I guess it’s possible. 

After breakfast, we go for a stroll around town in search of a pharmacy and a pregnancy test. Once back at the hotel, I pee on the stick and just wait to see if one or two lines appear.  It is unmistakable. We are going to have our first child. After nearly a decade of just Matt and Susan, we will add another being to our family. All those years I spent declaring that I never wanted to get married or have children are nothing but a distant memory. I didn’t believe in the institution of marriage or monogamy and never thought that I would find anyone I would want to spend the rest of my life with. Until I did. 

Robert Burns’ “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry” comes to mind. This little bean growing inside me has already changed me forever. No longer am I an independent individual. I’m literally living, breathing, and eating for two. Knowing this secret about having an invisible interloper on the trip allowed me to see, smell, and experience Turkey differently than if had he not been there. The colors and sounds of the Grand Bazaar came alive in me, seemed brighter and more sumptuous. I felt myself being bolder in haggling with vendors than I might otherwise have been. The delicate filigree and mother of pearl pendant I fell in love with was bought for less than the worth of the silver and is the piece of jewelry that has accompanied me on all of my travels since. It is a reminder of my first pregnancy and it is always with me. 

April 26, 2020

I like this. Finding my inner voice and wisdom is something I have been trained out of, if I ever had the ability. In my family, it was do as you are told, or else. Listening and following your inner voice was dangerous. It could bring punishment, opprobrium. Can inner voices be so starved and stunted that they can die? Be so faint and made so tiny that they can disappear?

Not as long as we are alive. Never lose hope. My Griffin holds that lesson up for me when my hope falters. What if our inner voices tell us the wrong things or is it possible for some people who are psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, and otherwise antisocial to follow their inner voices and cause harm? I am not sure all people’s inner voices are wise and good. But I believe most people’s are and that is my choice. What I choose to believe.

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