Last Sunday I had the pleasure of selling some of my work at the Hamilton Zineposium and it was amazing. For the show we had created an ad hoc company called MamaMax which features the work of me as well as my 5 year old son Max who has been working hard on making art for his colouring book zine. I had decided that I would turn some of the posts from this blog into a Pity Face Zine.
Now for those who don't know, Zines are hand made magazines written by anyone who wants to create one. They often combine illustrations with words and are photocopied in black and white. I have dreamed about making a zine for a very long time, and never quite thought that my first one would be about being diagnosed with breast cancer but I can't complain because after many years it gave me something to work with. I made a zine. I added some illustrations and a few handwritten bits, scanned it and then my husband made it all nice on the computer and we printed them up.
At the show, there were two types of people. People who were clearly so not comfortable with me talking matter of factly about cancer, and those who welcomed the conversation. Many were surprised about how well I was dealing. Surprised that only three weeks after, I had already done so much writing and talking about it.
A lot of people have been asking me why I am being so open about this time in my life. I think it's simple and maybe a bit selfish. You see, I don't want to be alone with this cancer. I don't want to feel like I have been forgotten. I also feel strongly about processing it the way I can, through my art. I feel like one of the powers that I have in the world is opening my mouth, and speaking to things that are often quieted. When I was a kid, cancer was only talked about in hushed tones, referred to as the c-word. I don't want to contribute to a culture of shame that patients of this crap disease deal with. I am honestly too tired of whispering about this and that, tired of taboos.
I don't claim to know a lot of things in life, but I do know that cancer touches a lot of people. For so many of us, we have had a parent, a friend, maybe a neighbour who has been diagnosed. But because we are not accustomed to talk about these difficult situations, people feel alone. To me that is one of the crappiest things ever. My hope is that by talking about my story, that perhaps someone out there won't feel alone, and will feel inspired to reach out to those around them.
But here's the thing, something i mentioned in earlier posts, that for me, it's hard to ask for help. Twice this week I had to ask for a ride to an appointment and for some help with childcare. It took me a few days to muster the strength to do this, but when i did, it was such a relief.
I realized that people want to help, and sometimes they don't know exactly how to help. So giving them a concrete thing, like, please bring me soup, hang out with my kid, can you drive me to an appointment helps them help me, which makes everyone happy. My community has been stellar with so many people reaching out to me. Even writing this makes me a bit mushy.
Today I got a radioactive seed placed inside my tumour. They used a geiger counter to make sure it was placed correctly. It was very weird. My friend Tor drove me to the appointment, and then, Karen picked up Max afterschool and hung out with him till dinner time after I had a nap.
These days I am tired. More emotionally than anything else. The waiting is the worst. In one week I will have surgery to remove this tumour, and we will be able to move on to treatment. I will find out what I need more and more of as each day passes, and that will be welcome. Wading in the unknown is tough, and knowledge is helpful, for me and my dear ones. In the mean time, I continue to live out loud dear friends. It's the only thing I know how to do REALLY well ;-)