I've recently had a new and unexpected experience in Los Angeles: that of a cancer patient. Here's what I learned: people get cancer. Even if they're pursuing their dreams.
Over the years, I've thought about cancer a lot, actually. I've made adjustments in my diet and purchasing habits to prevent it. I've exercised a lot and chosen foods high in anti-oxidants. Yet, I think I always assumed the main reason I wouldn't get cancer is that I'm ambitious. As if bad things only happen to the idle. This was not a conscious thought, it's something I've realized retrospectively. But when I was diagnosed, I threw my career-oriented ambition out the window. All I could consider working toward were cancer-free cells.
I'm now post-operative, and will go through radiation some time this summer. I have a scar on my neck from the thyroidectomy, and I have to keep it out of the sun. I used to scoff at women who wear scarves in the summer. No longer. My family has a history of melanoma, and now that "cancer prevention" has a much deeper meaning for me, I intend to stay out of the sun entirely. This is difficult, because I love the sun. I've arranged my life to have a closer relationship to the sun; that is, I moved to LA so that I'd always be in it. This year, my trips to the beach will look a little bit different than in the past. I'm scoping out umbrellas and tents with good ventilation. I'm shopping for cute cover-ups, and researching non-toxic sunscreens. I'm devoting myself with a renewed vitality to good health.
I've also allowed ambition to enter my being again. It was difficult, I'll admit. The first two weeks of recovery caused me to re-evaluate my goals, to question whether they are worthwhile, achievable, and propitious. It is now three and a half weeks since surgery, and I chalk my uncertainty up to morphine and codeine. Now that I am recovered and my energy has grown, I'm once again working toward my goals with the expectation of success.
People get cancer. And then they beat it. Even in Hollywood.