As I’m sitting here writing this in an ER hospital bed, the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations evoke distinct and vivid memories. I can’t help to embrace this stark reminder of the delicate precariousness of this new character of life I’ve adopted since 2010. I’m never “done” with all of this. Within this unfinished balance called remission lie a whole host of vulnerabilities, uncertainties, and “what if’s.” This is the second time a tissue infection has randomly sprung up in the surgical sites of my head, neck, and ear since 2014 so I expect to be back in business tomorrow after the appropriate medication.
The scars don’t have many boundaries when it comes to disrupting. My experience of meeting someone has been a feeling of their curiosity about the right side of my head and face. My new appearance continues to create tension in my social life this way. Approaching any new person comes with an inner voice emphasizing deformity. No matter how deep I bury that, some degree of hesitation persists, in fear of being seeing as a hideous, contorted specimen.
Romance, in my experience, had always been led by a pretty face. There was an abundance of intimacy through my early adulthood. Now the thought of making a move on a beautiful woman is infused with a lot of fear: what if I’m imposing on her the task of side-stepping my approach with a charitable politeness with pity as its underpinning? What if reality of the situation is similar to a joke--an adolescent Jonah Hill approaching a Zooey Deschanel, hoping for an honest chance? Even worse, what if some third party sees me in this embarrassing light? This narrative has manifested in the form of a lot of open space.
In that space I am becoming, and better for her in the light of it all, wherever she may be. A part of this growth is in utilizing my resourcefulness to attract the resources needed to live the life I desire. This applies longer term through substantial income as well as the immediate through making up the ground for time week off trying to recover from this strange ailment. These particular disruptions and challenges that accompany young adult cancer survivors throughout their survivorship get to be responsibly acknowledged. I am grateful for the innovative work of organizations like Stupid Cancer, M-Powerment, Hope and Cope, Teen Cancer America, and Cancer Fight Club; and many Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer programs in hospitals throughout the world attempting to address the demand for specialized support for the global developmental challenges faced by people who have been dealt such a drastic disruption in the middle of the most formative years of their life--the years when our friends are graduating college, starting careers, getting married, and starting families in stride.
This unique niche is no exception. We still get to stride, just in unique style. Amidst the challenge there is the beauty in progress of finding and growing into this style and insisting on it through the years.