All my friends are doing amazing things right now. Raising absurdly photogenic children. Taking blues cruises to the Caribbean. Making records. Producing TV spots narrated by Bradley Cooper. Having mimosas with brunch. I see it all on my newsfeed, and I'm fascinated and a little wistful. I'm also grateful. It's probably destroying the very fabric of our culture, but I'm sure glad social media exists right now. I'm thankful I can browse my friends' day-to-days, and soak up their great moments vicariously, because my life is on pause.
My world is all about cancer right now, and it's the smallest and most tedious it's ever been. I go to chemo, I'm laid low with sickness, I recover, then I go to chemo again and the cycle repeats. Week in, week out, the routine is the same—and somehow it just keeps getting harder. In between my appointments, I watch "The Wire," and shuffle around my apartment trying to remember the last time I felt good. I think it was in July and involved a lobster roll.
Everybody knows cancer is brutal, but what nobody tells you is it's also very dull; a beige, wallpapered loop of appointments and general discomfort. I've never seen so many earth-toned waiting rooms and while I've been stuck in them, I've never been more thankful for my friends' vacation selfies and gratuitous baby photos. Give me your humblebrags, your political rants, and your stupid cat videos—they just might keep me from losing my mind.
None of this cancer business makes very interesting newsfeed fodder. I measure my good days now in terms of the smallest achievements. If I were totally honest, my status updates would say: "Eureka! I finally showered." Or, "You know what's fun? Keeping down a bowl of plain pasta." It's mundane and awful at the same time. I have officially checked-in at a place called Mundawful, and I'll be here for another 4-5 months.
It's not that I was ever some globetrotting, adventure junkie—not in recent years, anyway. But the existence I was living before my diagnosis seems exotic to me now. Last year at this time, I was freelancing at a hip ad agency and putting the finishing touches on a record of old acoustic cowboy songs. I was almost 30 days into a 40-day juice cleanse, and I'd cut my hair as short as I thought I'd ever cut it. I'd booked a trip to Puerto Rico with my boyfriend, and sent away for pamphlets from three different graduate school programs. I was ready for big changes. I felt like I was on the verge of finally having my shit together, and like anything was possible.
Now I'm completely bald, and planning trips to the supermarket with as much care as a moon expedition. And the biggest change I can handle is which chemo suite my nurse assigns me to each week. (I like the one closest to the snack room and hate the one by the pharmacy, it's just too noisy.) These are the things I think about right now, and why I need my newsfeed as much as I need my medicine. I need that bigger picture to keep me from going bananas. I'm mostly too sick for visits and too worn out to socialize, but the scrolling loop of my friends' lives keeps me from feeling totally isolated. I'm still part of the world, even though I'm tucked squarely into my bed. Even if it's an illusion, I'll take it.
My friends have been there for me through this whole cancer shit show. I mean, they've really shown up: driving me to appointments, baking me stuffed shells, knitting me hats. They even kicked in, in a major way, to help me tackle my medical expenses, spreading the word, link by link until they whittled a mountain of bills down to an itty-bitty molehill. That is an incredible collective act of kindness to witness, and being the recipient of it is humbling and hard to describe. And I have to think social media helped light the big, beautiful fire that made it possible. Not bad for a medium that is supposedly eroding the very essence of our humanity.
My friends have raised the roof for me but they've also been there for me just by living their lives and sharing them in the way we do now, in so many status updates. Every time they post a photo or a quip or a rant, they remind me there is a finish line—a life beyond cancer—and I can't wait to rejoin them there. Someday soon I shall once again publicly bitch about the line at the post office, and post photos of brunch waffles, and LMAO at a video clip of Jimmy Fallon impersonating Jim Morrison. I will check out of Cancerland and check back into life.