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Hope

Shelly Fine

I still cannot quite believe that I have cancer. I still cannot quite believe I had to quit my job. I still cannot quite believe that it’s completely possible I will not see my two- and three-year-old daughters grow up. I might miss my 12-year-old son’s bar mitzvah.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Despite my efforts at self-distraction, these thoughts sneak into my mind. The riskiest time for such ponderings is after I’ve wandered downstairs at 5 a.m. to take my dose of morphine. I’ve always been a light sleeper, so it’s not unusual for me to lie awake in bed until the girls get up at 7 a.m. These two hours are the worst in my entire day. It’s during these hours that I’ve come to learn how horribly lonely cancer is. I think that’s the worst part of it. The loneliness. It’s so easy to lose all hope when you feel you’re completely alone. Back in what I refer to as my “previous life,” before I became religious, I was a wilderness backpacking guide in the Rockies. Besides teaching the more obvious essential survival skills — how and what to pack, navigation, shelter, dealing with wildlife encounters — one of the most important lessons I tried to pass on to my fellow hikers was the idea of hope. The worst thing, the biggest threat out there, I’d say, is not a grizzly bear. It is not starvation or dehydration, or extreme weather conditions. The biggest killer is losing hope. Losing hope almost guarantees death. Still, I will not pretend that I have not struggled these last few months since my diagnosis. I won’t pretend that I haven’t cried into my pillow until it was soaked, that I haven’t contemplated giving in, giving up. That I haven’t said, Maybe the world just doesn’t need me — maybe this is just my time to go. I’ve haven’t been exactly bitter during these moments, but I certainly struggle to see the point of it all. Why cancer? Why now? What am I supposed to learn? It’s morbidly interesting to me that I just left a job, a very odd job, where I dealt with death day and night. The irony is not lost on me: Here I am essentially in the same position as so many of the people I guided before their own deaths.

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