I’ve decided to stop fundraising now. I didn’t meet my $20 000 target, but I think I did a pretty good job raising the money I did. Fundraising was much harder than I expected and not everyone was supportive. Some people do actually say no or don’t care when you tell them that you’re fundraising for cancer, but the most difficult thing about that is when it comes from people who know you and know you’ve had cancer. It’s hard to swallow when it comes from your own community and from people who are meant to care about you.
One of the hardest things about having cancer was the loss of relationships. Some of my family turned their backs on me and still don’t talk to me, and my best friend and her family, who I thought loved and cared about me unconditionally turned their backs on me also. At that point they’d been an important part of my life for twenty years. I don’t get sad about it anymore, but I still feel disbelief that they could do this to me. Why? Why would they do this? I often shouted at Ash in my darker times. Of course he had no answer, and the thing is, neither do I. I wrote a short story about it a while back:
Sorry Is the Hardest Word
Slowly they left. One first, then the next, until they were all of them vanished. Rubbed away from my life in a way that left me wondering if they were even part of it to begin with.
What did they do with their memories of us together? Did they turn away from those in the same way they had all turned away from me? What of the photos and trinkets gathered in times past? Did they discard those, rip the photos and stamp angrily on the letters and cards we had exchanged throughout the years? I couldn’t know because I couldn’t ask. All I know is that I kept all of mine, my heart too broken to really believe that any of it was possible.
I laid it all out in front of me: The photos of Oktoberfest when we were just teenagers; A giant gingerbread love heart strung around my neck and her smile glowing wildly through her tossed about hair; both of us beautiful. There was the seahorse he brought me from the ocean. Its pouch dried open to reveal a hollow inside. My five year old arms had hung around his neck the day he gave it to me. The jewelry boxes the other one had brought me from far and wide. Some of camel bone, some of copper; all of them wonderful. That one never let me hug him but I loved him anyway. The fishing rod the oldest one treasured. He wouldn’t let me touch it, although now it belongs to me because he left, but in a different way to others. His exit was not just from me, but from all of it.
I say to myself that I don’t care about them because now I have such a good life. I do have a good life, but I still wonder about them. How could they turn their backs on me in such a way? I want to ask them and yell into their faces about how cowardly and disappointing it was for them to do what they did, but I know I won’t because I know they only care for themselves and wouldn’t be able to give me what I need, which of course is only the word sorry.
Sorry I want them to say. Sorry for leaving you when you were sick and terrible. Sorry that I didn’t have the courage to stay by your side when you were told that you were dying. Sorry that my idea of who you were wasn’t the right idea and now I see that it didn’t matter anyway because you are a better and stronger person for what happened to you. Sorry, sorry, sorry. They never will be though.
They wrote on my wall in a language that I no longer understand. They tracked their mud all across my floor and broke some windows here and there. I watched them set fire to the ceiling and chase all of the butterflies from my garden; they tore up the world. And I let them. I let them.
Certainly I am sorry. Sorry that I taught myself deception and that I had to learn my way out of it by the hardest road possible. I look upon the trinkets of the past and wonder about who I was when I gathered them all.
They left me and sometimes I wanted to as well. I’m still here though, albeit in a different way because now part of me is missing, cut away and gone forever. Some gone because of illness, much more gone because of them. Not all of it I miss.
Slowly goodness comes. A house can be rebuilt, piece by broken piece. I watch through new windows as butterflies arrive. One kindness informs another and I have a good life.