I’m home from Berlin and there aren’t enough swear words. Trust me.
I know, I know. What happened to this enviable adventure? The world traveler? The six months of reckless abandon? The torrid affairs? The food? The stories? The art? Well, I had some of that and now I have breast cancer. Passport and boarding pass, please.
Perhaps you just gasped, swore, dropped something, sat down, stood up, almost threw up, actually threw up, yelled, reread it, cried, clutched your hands to your chest…¬† Oh, don’t I know it. Because the few of you I’ve had the strength to look in the eye and say out loud that I was sicker than any girl my age has a right to be sick… Don’t I know what you’ve just done.
Now, don’t get that hurt look on your face because I should have called you, met you for coffee, said something at the party. You see, I wake up every morning and a herd of elephants has trampled my lungs. Millions of mad babies are screaming. Billions of metal objects are scratching themselves down a universe-sized chalkboard. Every time I have to hear myself tell the very worst truth I could ever tell, a little part of me gets left on the floor. Every time I have to tell it, I know I am upsetting someone. Every time I have to know the words I need to say, I have to know a little more for myself. It’s the cruelest joke. The insult of all insults to exclaim. It is anger and fear, frustration and disappointment. Loathing. And it is what I wake up with every morning knowing you don’t know and I am fighting for the words to tell you I am fighting for my life. It is not because I don’t love you that you didn’t hear it from my lips. It is exactly because I love you that I am telling you now.
It doesn’t matter what it’s called, what Stage it’s in, how big the tumor is, or when I found it. If I told you you probably would throw up, so just know that it has a long name, it’s so special they can’t Stage it, and it’s big. What really matters is that I was able to spend the last few months with a few incredible people, hiding out in “the eye of the storm” in Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Prague, taking photos, painting, writing, drinking, smoking, eating, dancing, kissing, living. With every cell of my body. And if anyone has been paying any attention to me at all over the last year, they would have felt a distinct shove forward, seen a spotlight that was aiming towards a life that was long overdue. My life. Get that taste of freedom in your mouth for the first time in ages and My. God. Just get on the plane. Go. Live. And I was living, right alongside a giant wall of terrible injustice, the Wall, and it would seem I have run smack into it. But… If you have been paying any attention to me at all over these last 38 years, you know exactly what I’m about to do.
I know the real truth. I am a lucky girl to have the life I have and the people I have in it. If not for you there would be no writing this, no taking pictures, no getting through last week, last night, tomorrow. “How can I help,” is an OK question to ask me. It’s the very first question, and it is the very best question. I am bracing myself, shoring up, battening down and I don’t know what I need because the storm is only just now hitting. I’m getting better at asking, and all I really need this moment is for you to ask me about my most recent adventures and let me tell you the rest in my own time. As for what happens next, well that doesn’t matter either. If I told you you would throw up. I did. Just know that right this minute I am exhausted and hopeful. Over the next 6 to 8 months I will be very, very sick and in the end I will surely come out of this but just as surely I will not come out of this looking like I went in, for the rest of my life.
And for all that we don’t know, know this. There will be photos.
For the rest of my life.
I have the 10-4 from Sniper 1 to shoot my way through this.
And I will not stop.
Week 2, #12 – Biopsy Series, 2011
I am Botticelli’s Venus. I am Helen of Troy.
I am the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
Fuck You, Cancer. I am Ali.