I often feel like the chemo killed me, like I’ve awoken into a second life of dreams and second chances. Prior to my cancer I wanted to change jobs and move to California, and for nearly three years I longed. Then I fell ill, or rather discovered that I was sick, only to be made sicker by chemo. Day after day, nurses administered oncologist-prescribed poison. As it trickled through my veins I felt life leaving me, by the minute. My face flushed white, my energy seeped, and the vividness of life crept drip by drip from my blood.
I felt like I had traveled through a wormhole out of my past life, to another place. I didn’t yet know if the chemo had killed the cancer, so I didn’t yet know where I was, but in a foggy place. I was nauseous and fatigued with weak bones, but seeking life.
My job was gone. My apartment was gone. Maryland and my East Coast friends were 3,000 miles away. All my useless belongings lay in boxes in my parents’ garage.
Even the cancer was gone. Chemo had carried me from gainful employment through disability and unemployment, and it was time to move on.
I almost landed a position with a pension—security lay within reach—but after three interviews I was passed up. So I stopped emailing resumes and began researching businesses for sale. I decided to pursue my dream and run a cafe, purchasing an existing shop with a steady flow of regulars.
I’m not sure how I arrived here, in California, running a cafe. I often feel like I died, perhaps because of how intimately I confronted death. Following one of my final chemotherapy sessions I cried. There was nothing but support in my life. I was supporting my family and my family me. But I could barely support the chemotherapy. It was killing me, and sometimes I feel like it did.