It Is What It Is

October 20, 2018

It is what it is.
A short, five word adage that simply means live life in the moment, accept the hand you’ve been dealt. Don’t worry, or complain, or even fear the future, just live for what is right in front of you. This how I try to live my life, all because of a stupid disease called cancer.
I was no older than ten and a half years old when cancer pushed its way into my world. My parents brought my sister and I down to the dining table to talk after telling us we could stay home from school that day. We were ten, we didn’t pick up anything, all we knew was that our friends were at school and we were not. As my dad entered the room, the mood changed. It went from this bright, warm, beautiful day away from school to a dark, rainy day we were so used to. But it turns out this day wasn’t just one day, it was weeks, months, years of life, all dark and gloomy, even for Seattle. Never once did I think three words, those three damned words, could change my life forever. “I have cancer.” The words just slipped out of my mom’s mouth.
Like a toddler gently falling over, the reaction wasn’t immediate. It took five or ten seconds before we were all crying. And I, young, full of hope, was hopelessly confused. At first I didn’t know what to do, so I just cried. And I cried some more. I was lost. For the first time in my life, I was anxious about something other than needles.
As the next few months went on, anxiety really broke me down. I couldn’t go a week at school without breaking down outside during recess. I tried to hide from everything in the world. So I hid. I locked these feelings, these emotions in a box and tried to keep it away. With it went a piece of me, showing itself every so often in a nervous breakdown by the tree outside, that I still walk by after school, five long years later.
As summer rolled around, I started going with my sister-in-law and my mom to radiation treatment. A new thing to have set in my life. A drive to Issaquah, the Starbucks inside with my twin sister Abby, in law Joy, and her daughter Ella, and a drive home. It was a routine, something I could wake up to in the morning that I knew would be there. I was somehow enjoying trips to the hospital.
Months past and radiation treatment finished and next came chemotherapy. This was when it all turned real. Chemotherapy in my 11 year-old mind was basically jail with needles and medicine, all things I was not fond of. This was the start of the worst year of my life. Every day after school, if my mom was undergoing chemotherapy, our dad would pick my sister and I up from school and take us to the hospital so we could eat and be around our mom even though we were in school. Instead of socializing with my mom and my family I ignored it and played video games. You would think my dad would make me stop but I literally felt like I couldn’t. The hospital was so depressing and I just wanted to take my mind off it.
So I did that one day. And the next, and the day after that. I did that every damn day I was visiting my mom at the hospital. I would go and play video games there until it became all I would do because it was mindless, it wasn’t boring and it made all the horrible things I had been experiencing over the past few months go away for a while. It was a cycle, and for me it worked, it kept me sane and it meant that I didn’t have to express any of my feelings to anyone. Ever. We tried counseling and I had a panic attack there. I started having panic attacks at school, I just couldn’t accept what was going on. I couldn’t say how I felt, which meant I couldn’t get any help, which meant the pressure just built up until it burst every week. My grades started dropping because I was crying every single time I couldn’t focus on something specific, which included homework, but did not include videogames.
Without truly realizing or accepting it, things got worse. My mom eventually moved into hospice care and I still seemed to ignore her. I don’t know why, but I chose to push this away and act around my mom like everything was normal.
After 18 months battling cancer, my mom lost a damn good fight.
People say that time is the only thing that can heal, and although they are right, some things will never fully heal. Looking back at this event, I am obviously still heartbroken, but at the same time I have grown. This experience, although not good has made me try to enjoy everything about life which I now see in my mom. She fought a disease for 18 months and allowed a 12 year-old kid to feel as if nothing was happening. Do you have any idea how difficult that is??? When my mom started losing her hair, she was upset for one day. ONE SINGLE DAY. She saw what happened and moved on. Dwell in the good, leave the bad behind, a simple strategy. You can’t change everything in life, so just accept it and enjoy it or leave it behind. Two options.
Earlier I said I try to live up to this idea, and although I’m getting better, I am definitely not great at this. Like I said, I still have some anxiety issues and worry a lot. I try to manage every aspect of life and get angry when I can’t. I try to learn, improve, and grow every single day because of my mom. I hate the fact that I didn’t get to tell her this but she really is such a great role model.
I lived like nothing was different and when things were different, I pushed them away. These differences weren’t people, they were things like hospitals that a 12 year old shouldn’t have to experience. The reason I didn’t see any difference is because my mom was just that tough. She went through hell for 18 goddamn months, nothing changed except a few physical aspect due to the treatment. You couldn’t tell she had cancer except maybe be a lack of hair on her head. You could talk to her about literally anything during chemotherapy and it seemed like we were at home, or enjoying lunch somewhere. My mom didn’t complain about cancer and how much it sucked, she simply played with the hand she was dealt. I try to live up to this but I see how insane this task was, to go through 18 months of hell and not bat an eye is absurdly difficult. I try to live up to it, and it’s the one thing I want you to take away. Push through the worst of the worst, be happy. You are alive and breathing. Whatever you are struggling with, push through it, be happy, because in the end It is what it is.
Jon Campbell