This is a tough one to talk about, but I’ll do my best.
There was this one time when I thought I had cancer.
It was a very maybe/maybe not kind of thing. My thyroid had grown to an unimaginable size, and considering I come from a family with a history of the big C, it was hard not to grow worried every time the biopsies came back “inconclusive”. I still cringe and shake when I think of that enormous needle piercing me, taking out a piece of me. I remember crying in the car over how helpless I felt. How awful it still feels, the memory of being so out of control. Especially when everything was just… “starting”, I guess. I had just landed this great job in animation, I was finally FINALLY making Fenix Gear with some super talented artists, and Jena and my romance had begun to blossom. But for all that I had accomplished, I felt like the victim of something that I had no say in. I was powerless and weak. And all I could do was cry.
But that actually wasn’t the worst part.
I’m having trouble forming the words that make sense…
Throughout this whole ordeal, I had people telling me it was going to be okay. That I was alright. That I might have cancer, but at least it wouldn’t be bad cancer. That if this was cancer, it was easy to cure, so it would be fine. In the moment, it felt like being told I had no reason to be sad or feel helpless. I know it was their way to try and make me feel better, but in a weird way, it made me feel worse. Hearing that I had nothing to worry about when I was scared out of my mind only made me feel that the people around me thought my fears weren’t justified. That I had no reason to be crying in the car.
That my pain did not matter.
I’m not sure why, but that stayed with me long after the offending piece of my thyroid was removed. That feeling of my fears and terrors not feeling important enough to be justified. That I shouldn’t, or couldn’t, sink into myself in wallow. That I had no excuse and had better pick myself up already because… a person should be stronger than that. I should be stronger.
It’s all kind of a blur now. Different fears and experiences pre and post surgery. I came out of it with a new perspective on myself, my work, my comic and my life. In fact, where some things did get better, some things got worse, as if I woke up from that surgery in a parallel world. Or maybe that’s just life.
I’m not sure why I decided to tell you this story now. Maybe it’s my subconscious screaming after the abysmally depressing election followed by its somehow worse aftermath. Maybe it’s some subconscious association I made with the comic above. But this was years ago, nearly 6, and hardly the fuel for James’ saga.
I still have to get checkups here and there to make sure my thyroid is working properly. The shadow of this time in my life lingers, though I try to forget it as often as I can. But I can’t, not completely. I can’t forget being told that I had no right to be afraid. When still, to this day, I am terrified.
On my fridge, I have a picture of the maybe/maybe not. That initial sonogram they took when they weren’t sure what they were looking at. Under the printout, I wrote “Everything will be okay.” It wasn’t fixed forever. It wasn’t great. But I was right. It was okay.
And maybe that’s enough.