I decided that one day I would get up, liberated not just from cancer, but by cancer. I would live out the best possible outcome from this nightmare, and there would only be fantasies made real, only things ticked off my bucket list. I wouldn’t be afraid of anything because surely nothing in the world is scarier than wondering if you are going to die – or worse, if you’ll never get better.
This particular morning there would be sun streaming through every window of the house, all curtains inexplicably opened before my awakening. The house would be magically uncluttered, as if to represent the sudden clarity within my own mind. I would put on some clothes instead of staying in my pyjamas all day, despite having no plans to leave the house just yet. Of course, I would shower first, and as it would be early in the morning, I could listen to my favourite radio presenter while I did so. Maybe I would even do some yoga. Yes, I would roll out my mat onto the space on the living room floor I had mentally reserved for it. Dust it off a little first. I wouldn’t be able to do too much – I would be better, but still a little tender from surgery. A little gentle stretching, then freshen up in the shower. Clothes on, like a proper human being with purpose. What purpose, I wouldn’t be sure of yet, but I would be excited about the possibilities.
I would consider the possibilities over breakfast. Maybe I would cook – my first successful attempt at poached eggs. I would pad around the room in my bare feet, feeling as light as an angel, delighted to already have something to tick off my bucket list. A small achievement, but one I had wanted to complete since I discovered my favourite egg configuration. After breakfast, I’d take a few minutes to reflect. Gather my thoughts. Perhaps consider what I wanted to do – but I would already know, really. How could I carry on working in an office after what I had been through? Hadn’t I had a wake-up call? Didn’t I now realise the value of life in ways I hadn’t before? A changed woman wouldn’t go back to her old day job, but would seek out something more meaningful. She would follow her dreams, something now unlocked inside her that made her feel unstoppable. And with that in mind, I would pick up the phone and call the office. I would ask to speak to my manager, and I would tell her not to expect me at work again.
Turning my attention to the immediate future, I would go online looking for inspiration. I would write down all the places I wanted to go to, and I would make a plan to see them all. I’d pick one to go to first, and book my flights that day. The cost wouldn’t matter for now, and little things that may have put me off before would no longer bother me. Long transfer times from the airport to the city? No problem, I have learnt patience. Don’t know the language? I’ll find my way around. Everything works out in the end, which has been recently proven. And if it doesn’t, that either means (as the saying goes) that it’s not the end yet. Or, more bleakly, it means you’re dead – in which case it doesn’t matter anymore, or not to you, anyway.
What else? I would ask myself, sitting by the window with my feet up, looking out onto the garden. I would make a list of the other things I wanted to do but hadn’t yet gotten around to – a hot air balloon ride, a fire walk, skydiving. Learning an instrument, and a language, and doing more art. There would be so much time now that I wasn’t working. Though I would still have to be practical. When I got back from my travels I would get a job doing something I loved. I wouldn’t be afraid of applying for something new, or going to the interview, or being the new girl, or not knowing what I was doing for a while. It would all be fine because I would be free from illness, and everything else should feel less important than that fact. Nothing else matters, and everything is conquerable. Nothing will feel wrong again as long as I remember how bad things have been before, and remember to be grateful that things are so much better now. This is what I would tell myself, in the world where my house is clean and tidy and the sun is always streaming through the windows.
I, the imaginary yoga-girl of the future would do her yoga down on the beach in the Maldives, or Mauritius. She would sample new food on an Italian cruise and see all the sights she had ever wanted to see – Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Venice. Yoga girl would even go to the airport without a ticket and jump on the first plane that had a free seat, just because she could. Back home, she would cook more and eat more healthily. She would exercise. She would spend her time doing things that made her smarter and more creative. She would help people – maybe that would be part of her new job, somehow.
But until then, the sun doesn’t stream through the windows and I am too tired to declutter. I wake up after lying in the same position all night because that is the only position I can comfortably fall asleep in. I cradle a support pillow between my legs and hug it to my chest. Evaluate whether I have the energy to shower. Swing my legs out of bed slowly and find my slippers. Every move careful. I go into the bathroom and lower myself onto the toilet, grabbing the towel rail for support. And reverse. Go into the living room, lie back in the armchair. Ask my partner for a drink and my breakfast. Take my tablets. Set up camp here for the foreseeable future. Television, naps and food are the only things on the agenda. Perhaps a dressing change. Maybe we will empty my drain and measure the fluid coming out of it. No hot air balloon rides. No trips abroad. In a couple of weeks I might take a trip for a hospital check-up. No driving for me, though. No shopping or walks in the park or reading. No downward facing dog. One day it will be yoga-girl’s day. But it’s not today.
Sam Rose is a writer and editor from Northamptonshire, England. She is the editor of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine and The Creative Truth. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Scarlet Leaf Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Haiku Journal, In Between Hangovers, and others. Sam is a cancer survivor and primarily uses her experiences with this to write poetry and memoir. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to rock music and eating too much chocolate. Find her on her website: https://www.writersam.co.uk/ and on Twitter @writersamr