It’s 3 am and here I am awake again. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much on my mind at this time of the day.
This Saturday I hop on an Amtrak train and head out to Moab, Utah for my climb. I will be heading to go on my first rock climbing trip, accompanied by 10-15 other young adults who have at some point been diagnosed with cancer. We will stay in a large cabin together, along with two guides and a chef. We will be trained, coached, and climb for a week in Moab.
It has been an incredible goal that got me back on track fitness-wise, but now that it’s here, it’s a little terrifying.
I feel like I’ve closed this wound. I had originally applied for this program last fall when I wanted to be surrounded by others like me. I wanted to be connected with them out of the sorrow, pain, and general bad luck that life sent us. I wanted to be scared with them, and connect with these people my age in a morbid way.
But that was a long time ago, what feels like a different life. I’m comfortable now. I can shut my fear off 96% of the time. I’m surrounded by people who can comfort me during the other 4% of the time. I’m very empathetic, and I’m scared of my sorrow as well as absorbing the sorrow from others. I don’t know what stories and personalities will be brought into my life.
I saw this on the ‘why’ section of the website for the program of my trip – ‘EACH YEAR, NEARLY 70,000 YOUNG ADULTS (AGE 15 – 39) ARE DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER IN THE U.S. ALONE. SURVIVAL RATES HAVE NOT IMPROVED SINCE THE 1970s.’ My odds of survival haven’t improved in 40 years. Think about all the things medicine has been able to do in 40 years. This it can’t.
January is my next CT scan. My blood work has never been an indicator of what’s going on inside of me, so January is already causing me anxiety since in my mind, it is my only real test. It will either be the day that gives me another year of life, the blessing of going to work every day, being able to do house projects and yard work, deal with broken cars, and balancing all the wonderful struggles of life.
Or it will be when my life starts to end.
I’ve put a lot of thought into which is better: die unexpectedly or have months to prepare. I already feel enlightened; I love the chaos every day brings, or the complete monotony. It’s beautiful when it’s bad, and it’s beautiful when it’s not.
But when it’s time, is it better to have it just be over and not have to deal with the anxiety, or am I strong enough to continue to find beauty as my body slowly fails?
I’ve already estimated how much I would actually get out if I were to close my retirement accounts. I would pull out early and travel as much as I can. I would probably have to sell my house early and move back home. I’m not sure how long I would continue to work.
Because I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with so many people that privacy is hard to come by, I now sit here in my bathroom with tears running down my face. And it’s great. I want to live my life to capacity, even if it means filling my house, too.
Maybe that’s what I have to keep in mind as I prepare for next week; it’s not about having to readdress my fears as my test day starts to loom in the distance. It’s about a new opportunity to fill myself with more people. More experiences and more stories. More friends who I otherwise would never know.
Regardless, I know it will be a great trip. I know their guides have experience in helping people through these initial hesitations. I know it will be a trip of a lifetime, I just have to get through this week first.