My heart is broken. When I look in the mirror I see a beautiful girl. A girl with the world in the palm of her hands. I know that I am smart, funny, capable, caring, passionate, talented and oh so beautiful. A porcelain doll. But I am broken. I have been permanently maimed by disease, from the inside to the outside. And the weight of it is almost too much to bear.
I am blessed beyond words for all of the goodness in my life. My smiles, my joy, they are never feigned. But I carry this heavy burden deep in my chest and in my darkest moments it becomes me. I will not be loved, a fear that I have harbored since I was a child. And it has grown with me, changed as I have changed, sometimes seeming to have disappeared all together and other times so present that it is blinding.
Dramatic, that’s how I would describe myself as an adolescent looking for “love” in all the wrong places and never finding it, either way. A similar struggle to most all teenage girls I’d imagine, but for me if felt like a curse. I would think, “here I am, so beautiful, so willing to love someone, and no one notices me, no one cares.” It consumed me then, I craved male attention in an unhealthy way but found none. Though torturous at the time I am sure that I am better for it now.
After high school I learned so much. How to be outgoing, warm and friendly. How to get the person I was on the inside a little closer to the outside. To be more approachable, to smile more freely, to start a conversation instead of wait to be noticed by someone. I also had my first experiences with love and dating. And with each failed relationship I gained knowledge, about myself, about how to love, about what it means to love someone in that way, the way that I have always craved to be loved.
When I got sick, I couldn’t think about love. What a distraction. What a distraction while I am here trying to live, focusing all of my energy on getting through the next day. But oh, it pained me. Of the few tears I shed through my illness I’m sure a majority can be attributed to the overwhelming and profound sadness which overcame me when I thought, “I will die before I am truly loved. I will not be married. I will not be a mother. No one will look at me like nothing else matters but the two of us, because I will not be here.” How absolutely horrible. How absolutely horrible, to have those thoughts cross my mind and know that they could have been true.
That says a lot about me. I learned so much during my illness, about myself, and about life. I am so grateful for it because I know exactly who I am and I see, with complete clarity, what is important to me in my life. I find happiness and goodness in every single day. But I will always wish for love. On my death bed, my heart was heavy because I knew I would never be loved or be able to share my love. That says a lot about me.
The fear, ever present through my youth and into adulthood, was changed by my illness too. It became something much more serious, like most things in my life. Before, it was teasing, a voice in the back of my head, taunting my insecurities. Now it is educated. It’s taunts are logical, they’re factual. They target the things that I truly cannot change, I can’t love away the deformity of my hips or the likelihood of relapse that I face everyday like I could love away the flaws of my past. I do not want to give in, but I often do. I fall down the rabbit whole and into a world of grief. There I feel unwaveringly certain, that I, in all my glory, will never be able to share myself with someone else, and the pain of admitting it is indescribable.
Why would anyone want to love me now? I might have joked about it before, but deep down I knew that there was nothing wrong with me, there was no reason that I could not be loved by someone, someday. There was no real doubt in my mind that I would find a partner. Now, everything is different. I feel so whole, most all of the time. More complete and sure of myself than I ever was before. But the rest of the time I am broken. Damaged beyond repair by something that gave me so much to live for.
Cancer showed me exactly what I want in life and destroyed my hopes of getting it. Physically, I am in fair form. As beautiful as ever when I am standing still. I hate myself when the pain in my hip is so unbearable that I have to limp. To show the world my weakness, my frailty, almost without my consent. I can hide the cancer, but I won’t. The guilt of it would consume me. And even if someone can look past all of that, they don’t know. They don’t know how impossibly difficult it is to watch someone who you love so dearly suffer so greatly and for so long. To wonder if they’ll make it through the next few hours. To wonder if they’ll ever be the same.
I am healthy now, but there is no guarantee. I will never be absolutely sure of my health. Could I let someone else walk into this trap? It’s not fair. I can’t ask someone else to carry these burdens for me. I don’t know that anyone else would want to, and I don’t blame them.
I would never describe my suffering as “dramatics” now, nor anyone else’s for that matter. My feelings are so real. They are irrational, I know that they are. I know that they sound like they are to others, which is why I don’t share this. I don’t know if I could stand to have my pain belittled by another. It is almost too much for me on its own than for me to invite others to criticize it. I know that they are irrational but I know that they are real. The tears I cry are real, the sadness in my heart is real, the tightness in my chest, the gasping for air, it is all real to me.
But most of the time, I am happy. Happy to be alive, happy to be loved so dearly by my family and friends, and happy to be able to love them in return. And with that happiness, and that love, I am able to keep a sliver of hope alive. I will not stop smiling, or being beautiful or being kind. I will not stop being me, the version of me that I love, and hopefully one day that will be enough.