If You Knew Me

If you knew me, you would know I am resilient. Tough, even in the face of the worst news. You would know I rise to the occasion every time. l might break down before. I might break down after. Certainly after. But I will meet the challenges at each and every turn.

If you knew me you would know I smiled my way through many of my hard times. Lied and smiled and said "fine" when many a person asked, "How are you?"

If you knew me you would know I am not a negative person. That I am not a pity-seeker, nor a martyr. You would know that I just do the best I can, and want to be dignified, and strong, but am not in denial.

If you knew me you would know I love to do things for others, more so than myself. That in this turbulent portion of my life I have done what I can to show others what they mean to me, and how much I appreciate the kindness of strangers... how the smallest encounters can stay with you forever.

If you knew me you would know that I tried my best to make others feel at ease with my cancer. I always tried to look "well" and take pride in looking the best I could with what I had left. I created outfits around my scarves, and learned how to draw in eyebrows so that it wouldn't be too obvious I had none. I tried to set a good example for my children, being honest with them about what was happening, loving them as much as I could, and asking the others who loved them to help them feel special and safe.

If you knew me you would know I care for others more than myself. When fellow cancer patients have asked to see what reconstruction looks like, I place my pride and embarrassment aside to honor their needs, their fears, their emotions. While some might (and do) hide their illnesses, I cannot. I have chosen for myself, and for my children, to be open about what it is, what it does, what price it demands. I believe that being this way will reduce the shame, the fear, and the confusion for them. Nothing has been more important to me than making sure my children understand what was happening and why. And scientifically what the reasons were. But that honesty is not at the expense of hope. Of optimism. Of sheer will. To remain mum about these feelings, these thoughts, these explanations of my experience is to deny my life for the past 2 years, to say the suffering, the confusion, the fear was ill-placed. To avoid talking about the reality of the dangers, the problems, the down-times is to be in denial and further, to assert that my fears are irrational.

If you knew me you would know that I write not because I wallow in darkness, or think negative thoughts all the time. If you knew me you would know I write so that the emotions can be explored, pushed, pulled, twisted, and shared in order for me to be positive, optimistic, and strong for the rest of the world to see. It is the sharing of these ideas on paper, and sometimes reaching the hoped-for connection to people who read them (whether because they resonate with you, move you, educate you, or make you thankful that you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about!) that keeps my words flowing.

If you knew me you would know I'm just a person, doing the best I can with what I've got, and with what I've been given. Maybe it's a bum rap, and maybe it is actually the greatest opportunity l’ve ever been given. I think it's probably a bit of both. My fervent hope is to be able to pay it forward for quite some time.

Mark Bonchek