Read the first here.
I have my boarding pass in hand.
My shoes, electronics, and coat are all in their grey tray, waiting to go through the scanner. The TSA woman tells me to come forward—I know I’m going to set off the alarm.
This is the joy of traveling with a chemotherapy port. It means I get to have a stranger cup the underside of my breasts and slide her hands up and down my thighs. Too bad I didn’t have ‘public fondling’ on my Fuck It List. I could have crossed that off along with Seattle, Washington.
To briefly explain, in 2011, at 35 years old, I was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. Since then, I have fought hard for my physical and mental health. I knew I needed something to spur me on, to keep that fight going.
I needed to do something for me!
That’s when I created my ‘Fuck It List,’ A list of all the things I want to accomplish in my life, places I want to visit, etc. It is about me saying ‘fuck it’ to my illness…’fuck it’ to those who said I couldn’t and to those who say I shouldn’t.
And, most importantly, I’m saying ‘fuck it’ to fear.
I won’t give in and allow it to rule my life.
Last month’s ‘Fuck It List’ trip was to Portland, Oregon.
This month brought me to Seattle, Washington.
I headed there with five of my friends to spend five days exploring the city that vicariously ruled my teenage years.
Flannel shirts, Dr. Martens, wool caps, Nirvana… Pearl Jam… Damn it, if I could only find a bottle of CK One perfume! I’d say that was my signature scent, but pretty much every boy and girl wore it back then too. Sigh, quite the trendsetter I was.
With tickets to see my first Pearl Jam concert (in Seattle!!! Shut up!!) I was going to dive headfirst into nostalgia. We even planned road trips based around visiting Kurt Cobain’s house, Jimi Hendrix’s grave, and the house from the classic 90’s film, ‘Singles’.
Touristy? Yes. Lame? Hell no!!
We stayed at the infamous Edgewater Hotel; many tales of rock n roll debauchery have taken place there. The building itself seems like a place that would hold your darkest secrets. Unfortunately, my only secret was accidentally spooning my friend while we slept in our shared double bed.
What can I say? I’m a cuddler.
We hit the ground running the moment we got to Seattle; Pike Place Market was the first stop. Who would think seeing fish being thrown around could be so entertaining? Yet, there I was, laughing and clapping like a five year old at a circus. The wall of gum was both disgusting and oddly appealing. It’s says a lot about me that the pictures I took pretending to lick the wall were thought to be absolutely real by those who saw them on Facebook.
(Note to self: work on being more ladylike in 2014.)
Never in my life have I seen so many coffee shops in one place. Granted, this is the location of the original Starbucks but, come on! There is literally a coffee shop on every block, which worked out well because it was so damn cold, we were constantly looking for a place to warm up. Thankfully, I brought my warmest coat, because this was the kind of cold that makes one very, very angry to be outside.
We spent time in a museum that had a Nirvana collection on display. I thought I would be super psyched to see it; to be up close to the drum kit Dave Grohl originally played or the sweater Kurt Cobain wore in the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video.
Instead, it made me sad. Sad to know how it all turned out.
But that’s life, right?
If we knew the ending, we never would be able to enjoy the present moment. I never would have danced around my room to ‘In Utero’ if I knew that not too long after, Kurt Cobain would kill himself and the music scene I loved so much would begin to die along with him.
We have ideas about our stars, but really, we have no clue. Standing outside Kurt’s house; the house where he took his own life, filled me with deep aching. While I don’t know why he did it, I do know what it’s like to be in a place so dark, you think you will never be able to pull yourself out of it. Some people are lucky enough to be able to. Unfortunately, he was not.
Every one of us walks around with a mask on, rarely showing the world what is going on behind it. I do it myself. Not many people know the emotional toll cancer has taken on me. Two and a half years of treatments and surgeries, fears and panic attacks, go mostly unseen. The pain is thought to be ours and ours alone.
But, it doesn’t have to be. If we are lucky enough to have friends and family, maybe a great therapist or chemical balancing drugs, we can come out on the other side of the darkness.
Learn to gently slide the hand away when fear comes to grip you.
Accept the uncertainty of life and focus on the present joy.
Even if that joy is a shady tree to sit under or a great song played at just the moment you needed to hear it.
The Pearl Jam show ran over two hours. They give everything they have on stage and the audience gives it right back. It’s a beautiful, awe-inspiring experience. One of their finales was the song ‘Alive,’ a favorite of mine from way back that now holds so much more relevancy.
I closed my eyes, threw my hands in the air, and sang along with thousands of people,
“I, oh, I’m still alive
Hey I, oh, I’m still alive”
It isn’t always easy. There are dark periods sometimes, but remember that the light will always find it’s way through.
Hold on for the light.
Hold on for those moments when you are gripping a stranger’s hand in a darkened arena, singing, sharing, living.
I’m still alive
I’m still alive.
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Assistant Editor: Sanja Cloete-Jones/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Andrea Rose. Flickr
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