A personal essay of living with ovarian cancer by Nishtha of India.
After ovarian cancer, ladies woke up early every day to breathe deep, make positivity origami and release them in the air. Raged through the idea of death, barging into the light.
Except, none of this happened. Never.
Low Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer – LGSOC, sounds like a cool name of a metal band, but all it is our hope and traumas banded together. We lay on our backs, stare at the ceiling, and our heads turn a quarter front and quarter back in the present and the past, and we bang our heads to the tune of this disease. When we sit, we have gratitude. When we sleep, we have nightmares. In a perfect world, cancer leaves people behind post the treatment, but in the real one it takes away both physical and emotional aspects that we could never get back. Regular infections in the body and uncertainties in the mind. Under the poker and joker face, the world is a different place. The world still rides a horse, but we are neither able to pull down the rein and stop nor able to straddle and run along. We are stuck on the top, just moving wherever the wind blows. Transitioning between imaginary psychedelic neon blue lights of cancer drugs and sudden awakening to unbelievability of daily surprises.
Death is not the biggest fear for most, it is what we might have to live with or who we might leave behind without support. Our partners of decades leave us calling us a burden and many of us are asked in job interviews whether we “could be trusted with responsibility” with our cancer bills in our purses. The young ones can’t start families and wonder if life would ever give them a human company.
But my ladies’ metal band LGSOC also has a slogan “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL”. And my dearest survivors of cancer, tragedies, deaths, identity change, single parents, major diseases, disorders, heartbreaks, divorces, or every other horrible thing life handed out to you – I know you could relate to a part or the whole of what I say. Pain is universal but the fight against it is internal and eternally ours. This internal will of ours to raise a toast to life – to living – is beyond circumstances, status, or age. We hold a lightsaber, to protect us and those we love.
We humans hold the key to survival. Whether we agree or not, it is called hope, whether for 2 years later or just for tomorrow. We hold the torch up high. With strength, courage, and actions that are right. We do not give into what is easy or run away from what is coming our way. We embrace the pain and walk right through it with 40 stitches on our tender tummies. We walk over the past, no matter how harrowing it is. We breathe everyday and look forward to every tomorrow. We don’t let our optimism down. We laugh and we sing. We trust ourselves more than we trust anyone else. And we leave behind what doesn’t matter anymore. We don’t take mercy or sympathy as an answer. We choose to add joy wherever we go. And we know what sorrow is like – but no matter how hard it gets we never leave the side of those who need us.
We accept what is there, define what is normal. We appreciate the fabulous in both the petty and the larger than life. We wear resilience and love ourselves even when no one else does. Solo trips to the loo or to another country is our brave journey – whether we agree or not.
What is life, if not lived fiercely in the face of danger. Make the first step towards doing everything you did in your pre-tragedy lives – even if the fear runs chills through you. If you created dreams in a world that doesn’t even exist anymore, pursue the dreams, nonetheless. Go on that dance alone. Take yourself out for a coffee. Write a journal and burn the misery with it. Fall in the depth of your loss and start swimming bit by bit. The psychedelic neon blue lights are still there, but they would be fading. This might never leave but you grow bigger than this. Stick your tongue out, smile coz your crazy ass is still alive.
No matter how many years we invested in our treatment, we are never too late for what we love to do. We might just have to change the way we do it given the situation. Yes, we will breakdown, don’t even expect we won’t. But only we have the responsibility to rebuild our life with only the choices we make. Stand up for yourself even if it means standing alone. Having a beating pulse or not is not what makes people a survivor. Fighting for it does. And on this World Ovarian Cancer Awareness day, I would just say
FIGHT LIKE A GIRL.
Like Dylan Thomas says
“Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”