Chemo took my hair, my tastes, and my empathy.
I would like to say that going through this whole ordeal has made me more empathetic. But it hasn’t.
Well, I guess that’s not entirely accurate.
Cancer made me more aware of the silent struggles we all go through. It has made me more sensitive to how someone may react and has taught me to give others the benefit of the doubt. However, with this wise new outlook, it somehow failed to teach me to be empathetic to those suffering from a common cold.
To be honest, because this blog is my open post-chemo diary to the world and this is where I should be honest, I feel like a horrible person for even thinking about writing this post – let alone publishing it. But I believe we need to talk about this. I feel that this is one of those topics that gets swept under the rug. One where we all silently clench our teeth as someone compares having the flu to feeling like they are dying and do our very best to keep quiet and just nod.
But, since we are being honest, I don’t really want to do that. Instead, I’d rather actually feel empathy for someone going through any discomfort – no matter the circumstance. Personally, I’d prefer not to have an internal battle comparing every side effect they are listing to all of the awful things I felt and still feel. I’d rather just console them and be a good person. But without empathy, it’s hard to actually do that.
(I know – I’m a horrible person! I am trying to be better though, so that’s at least something.)
I’d like to imagine at some point, during the countless needle pokes, or maybe all of the extended hospital stays, my empathy decided to jump ship. Or maybe it was flushed out with one of the many bags of blood I received. Because you know empathy isn’t a learned feeling, it’s a bodily fluid, right? However, if it could come back now, that would be great.
You see, it turns out that to be a good human you need empathy. And while I have some, I would like to take back all of the empathy I had before I heard the words “you have leukemia.”
I get it, though. I went through some pretty terrifying shit. But I’m doing much better, carbs are my friend again, I’m on the other side, and hey, I even learned how to cook. So, basically, I’m even better than I was before my empathy left (and you know, pre-cancer), kind of like a Courtney 2.0.
Granted, there are the nights when my body still hurts, and sometimes I get so angry I need to punch some pillows (note: really need to look into getting stronger pillows). And sure, there are foods that will always be on my no-fly list, and yes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is one of them, but I have hair again so that’s proof that I’m growing…
Okay, so maybe I still have some work to do, perhaps I’m more like Courtney 1.5 – but I’m working on it. And I’d like to think that if I continue to work hard enough at feeling things, I’ll get my empathy back. But for now, I’ll use wine and sweets to summon up some compassion for the moments when I don’t have enough strength on my own.