OyChicago blog

Cancer’s new home

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Jenna Benn photo

I am surrounded by a sea of boxes that serve as reminders of what was and what is. Each memory is individually wrapped, sealed tight and waiting to be discovered and rediscovered. Over the last few years, I have consolidated, purged, and deliberately parted with many of my material possessions.

In all of my moves I have made the difficult decision of what to take with me and what to leave behind.

This last June, ten days after leaving the hospital for a dangerous infection, I moved out of my apartment into a new one. I needed a fresh start— a new beginning— a new space that didn't remind me of cancer. My previous apartment had been painted in sickness, and wallpapered with pain. Last year when I moved from floor 30 to floor 29, there was a clear demarcation between the past and the present. I had closed the chapter on victim and was determined to write the chapter on thriving survivorship.

And in the last year, my hopes and dreams were not only realized but delivered ten-fold.

A few nights ago in the midst of packing again, I had a run in with cancer. This time she was not in my blood, but instead found twisting between expired prescriptions, worn out wigs, homemade scarves, and hats. She also had taken up residence in my previously worn surgical masks, plastic gloves and hand sanitizer. The memories of what was had resurfaced and soon enough I was on the floor in a sea of tears. As I lay still with those memories, I knew I had a decision to make.

That night, I chose to leave her behind.

I wasn't going to allow her to infiltrate my new space. I wasn't going to let her show up and ruin more moments. I wasn't going to let her take a lead role in this new chapter. And so as I prepare to move from floor 29 to a new home built for two. I decided to package up cancer and seal her in a tight little box, with no room to breathe. And there she can live amongst a sea of discarded memories, in a landfill somewhere far from here.

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