Last year at this time, as Hurricane Sandy was barreling down on the East Coast, I was preparing for my own storm–chemotherapy for a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer (I’m fine now, unlike a lot of people whose lives were devastated by Sandy.) Here’s what I wrote a year ago, complete with topical references to the news and the upcoming presidential election:
I know my own storm is looming, and the warnings are dire—fatigue, nausea, hair loss, risk of infection and permanent neuropathy. But I don’t yet feel it in my gut. I’ve been hiking and working, grocery shopping, trying new recipes with complex ingredients, phone banking, seeing comedy. Surely the warnings don’t apply to me in my bubble of near-normal on such a beautiful day. How can the storm hit when the skies are so blue? People must be exaggerating; I’ll be able to ride it out more or less intact. I don’t want to evacuate my current life. The Mayor of Atlantic City is most welcome to tell me it’s safe to stay put.
But instead here comes Chris Christie shouting at me to stop being an idiot: “Don’t be stupid, take it seriously, quit working, eat organic, give up refined sugar and flour!” (Actually, I’d be really surprised if Chris Christie chided me about my diet.) Why can’t he let me linger with my illusions?
It’s not like I’m completely unprepared. I’ve been half-heartedly stockpiling guided imagery CDs, cancer-fighting recipes, baldness disguises. But I feel like Mitt Romney with his canned goods as I collect my little bottles of hand sanitizer in a hapless gesture against the onslaught.
Will I be flattened? Will the storm pass through me with only minor damage and disruptions? Like East Coasters preparing their kids for blackouts by saying how fun it will be–“Just like camping!”— I’m telling myself that sitting in Kaiser’s 5th floor infusion center for hours will be just like giving blood, such a good chance to catch up on my reading! But even camping and no-school days and New Yorkers get old fast. Besides, what if the damage is extensive? Will it take me months, even years, to dig out? Will I be one of the fatalities, if not in the literal sense, with a life so changed it will feel like I’ve lost everything? Will my inner and outer resources hold, especially once the initial crisis has turned into one long tiresome trudge? What if I can’t rebuild?
The storm is coming, but I don’t want to think about it just yet. Standing here now, before it hits, I can’t believe I’ll lose the sun, the warmth, this lovely day, even for a moment.