This is an excerpt from “See You Next Year, Maybe,” on I Am Not Making Up: Everyday Experience And/As Art.”
I often think, “cancer is like . . . a cancer.” The disease provides its own metaphor, one that reflects its peculiar and deadly manner of effecting decline through abundance. For various reasons, I do not feel shocked or traumatized by my own cancer experience; I’m more curious and intrigued than I am frightened or repulsed. I’m interested in impermanence and dismemberment, spiritually as well as physically.
In a poem called “Cell,” Margaret Atwood describes cancer as ravenous and fanatical about its own life:
It has forgotten
how to die. But why remember? All it wants is more
amnesia. More life, and more abundantly. To take
more. To eat more. To replicate itself.
I like that idea, that my tumors might be—might have been, I mean—a sign of excessive enthusiasm more than of decay; though the truth is, despite the oft-stated notion that after cancer “every day is a gift,” I do not always feel that way. There are various reasons for that, and they change over time.