With my tongue outstretched and her hand on my pulse, the acupuncturist fired questions and conclusions at me:
“You worry too much. You think too much. Are you angry?”
I groaned to myself; she knows way too much for someone I’d just met.
“Are you angry?”
“No.” I lied.
The heart of the matter
She picked up on the thing I avoid the most and, thus, the thing that causes me the most pain. I’m 30 years old and in the last 15 of them have battled three different types of cancer a total of five different times. I have every right to be angry but I’m usually better at hiding it.
I’m angry about the fallout of illness. The lasting physical disabilities, the loss of innocence, the disruption of my schooling and its lasting consequences, and the trauma of invasive medical procedures.
The “medical consequences of cure”
The chemotherapy I was given has caused, among other late effects, permanent ringing in my ears and some hearing loss—where I can’t understand speech if there is background noise or hear buzzers, like cell phones or doorbells. As one who likes to spend time in the peace of nature, I do it knowing that being in a quiet environment only exacerbates the ever-present ringing in my head.
The radiation to my throat which I was assured would do no more damage than to “temporarily make me hoarse” left me mute for months, and three years later I still have some difficulty with my voice which, as a singer, is a significant dilemma.
I don’t remember what it feels like to run anymore because of the prosthesis inside my leg. As a former basketball and tennis player, just seeing people play those sports can rip me raw.
Wheelchair tennis isn’t the same—I tried it and was constantly being corrected, “Not like that! You’re trying to play able-bodied!” Damn it, when I learned how to play I was able-bodied! It’s not the same either, with lots of ultra fast 360 degree spins and the vertigo that goes with them. I was terribly disappointed.
Mellowing or not
I’ve learned that anger, over time, can mellow out to disappointment. I’ve often been disappointed in these past 15 years. Disappointed by friends who “couldn’t handle it” and disappeared. Disappointed to realize the vast limitations of modern medicine. Disappointed in my former faith community who, prideful of their excellence of community, abandoned me altogether when I was in need. No, that’s not true. I’m not disappointed in them. I’m still angry .
Therein lies the sin. By nurturing my anger I cannot forgive. If I can’t forgive, I can’t grow; I just cook in my anger.
I’d like to be more like Christ and cry out, “Father forgive them!” as I hang on my cross of medical intervention, but more often the call on my lips is, “My God why have you forsaken me?!”