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One night in cancerland

I can feel the cool breeze from the oscillating fan perched atop my dresser passing back and forth across my body.

It feels as if I’ve stepped into a cool room after being outside on a hot day, the artificial wind kissing my damp skin.

I’m having night sweats. Again.

For several nights in a row now—or should I say, several mornings—I’ve blearily reached for my phone to check the time, having stirred from my medicated slumber.

The numbers taunt me: 03:00. I’m starving.

It’s the steroids, unappeasable and relentlessly nagging.
Nothing in this house is safe from my voracious hunger. Not even sleep.

Like a child trying to save their sleep, I sneak out of bed with one eye closed, trying not to wake Shannon or the cats in the process.

I’m halfway successful as the cats greet me in the kitchen. I don’t know where they came from, but they always seem to know where I am.

Under the dimmed nightlights of the kitchen, I throw together a sandwich. Cheese, brisket, and spicy Dijon coalesce on baker’s bread to create a savoury early morning snack.

Then a pair of oranges.

A popsicle.

A can of peach sparkling water.

Some almonds.

A handful of tortilla chips.

A glop of cherry yogourt.

I eagerly eat. My hunger is stalwart and the hole in my leg is none the fuller.

I’m one of those people who puts on weight during cancer treatment. This is why.

Sitting on the couch, I unlock my phone and start browsing social: first Twitter and then Facebook.

It’s 03:45 and many of my cancer friends are up, chatting sleeplessly about our woes, fears, and victories.

I’m not tired anymore and figure it’ll be a while before I’m ready to crawl back into bed.

A 07:30 alarm just isn’t going to cut it, so I bump it for a few minutes of extra sleep before I continue browsing.

ANONYMOUS
I can’t sleep tonight. There’s just too much on my mind. Does anyone else worry that people are going to forget who they were before cancer?

We’re a jumble of carcinomies, connected in this moment through fibre optic cables and apps.

ANONYMOUS
Fuck. I don’t know if I can keep doing this, guys.

Treatment might not be working anymore and it’s freaking me out.

I haven’t told my family yet. I don’t know what to do.

Some of us are separated laterally, our distance spanning time zones. Others, longitudinally. Others are a handful of minutes away.

In these forsaken hours, insomnia is the glue that bonds us together.

ANONYMOUS
Holy shit. I made it! I’m cancer free. I could cry tears of joy right now if I wasn’t so exhausted and dried out from treatment. FUCK CANCER.

This digital cancerland hosts everyone, from the newly diagnosed to the person who’s beaten all of the odds (except, you know, for having cancer in the first place).

ANONYMOUS
Scanxiety 😬

Some posts are a single word, perfectly encapsulating all of the thoughts, fears, and emotions to go with.

It’s important to have compassion in cancerland because if you only have empathy, you’re fucked. It’s too much to bear. It’s not a place to live or be stuck.

After scrolling and responding for a bit, I feel ready to crawl back into bed, my hunger finally satiated from my feast.

It’s 04:30 and I’m wide awake as I hit the sheets, my cats jumping into bed with me.

One of them is standing on Shannon. The other is trying to knead my ribcage into a comfortable resting place.

Fuck. I have to get some sleep. I’m working tomorrow and need to be sharp.

Don’t overthink it. Distract yourself.

I reach for the book on my nightstand, moving the cat in the process.

The Old Drift, guides me to sleep as I try to imagine life along the Zambezi River, picturing Rhodesia’s transformation into Zimbabwe through the eyes of several generations of the same family.

“Someday I’d love to see Africa,” I think to myself, my consciousness drifting into the black.

Someday.

CancerCanuck

My name is Jason Manuge. I'm an early onset Stage IV colorectal cancer survivor. You can find me on social as CancerCanuck!

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