Friday, August 23, 2013

Pretend Human

I haven't been able to post too much in the last month. I've been distracted with my new human life. It's not easy, pretending to be human again. I say pretending because that's what it feels like these days.

Suddenly one Friday evening I was uprooted from my home, dislocated from my familiar neighborhoods, my favorite restaurants and parks. I spent over a year of my life isolated in hospital rooms, getting poked and prodded, groped and palpated, shoved into noisy machines, forced to stand in stuffy glass boxes, told to strip down, put this on, take that off, hold this, stand there, lay this way, sit up, lie back, take this, don't take that, go here, breath out, now breath in, hold your breath. I was a sack of flesh, carried and wheeled and shuffled here and there, defined by the numbers on a computer screen, by scans and X-rays. 

Everywhere I went I was greeted with the ceremonial, "Please confirm your name and date of birth." I'd answer accordingly. The tech or nurse or whatever would compare the notes to be sure that I had answered correctly. I answered incorrectly once. I'd given my birthday wrong. The data on the page didn't add up. Who was I? What was I doing here? Oh, sorry. I meant to say this. Crisis averted. The numbers match. You are the bits of typed ink on the page.

I learned to speak a new language. I learned how to navigate a new world. I became another being, a creature shaped by cancer, devoured by chemo and radiation, and then reshaped by transplantation of foreign DNA. Somehow I emerged on the other side less human that I was before.

It wasn't my choice, and I entered this world kicking and screaming the whole way. If I had to go, I would not go gracefully.

And then suddenly I was set loose back into the world that cancer had so rudely ripped me from. I beamed back down to Earth like an alien abductee, shaken, sore from the probing, traumatized by an experience that I could never hope to fully explain to any other living creature.

So, I walked - slowly because of the fatigue - back into a world that was now foreign to me. How could that happen? It had only been, what, a year? I couldn't believe it had only been a year. I feel as if I have aged ten years in one (maybe this is what dogs feel like). It's as if I've been frozen in ice for decades only to be thawed and awoken into a futuristic, unfamiliar world. (I can go all day with these metaphors, people.)

I try to adjust to the Human world, try to understand their gestures and their language. The language is familiar to me, as if they speak a language that I once knew a long time ago, but have now forgotten. I pick up a few words, but the context is foreign to me. Apparently I belong to this world, that I am a Human as well. It's futile to explain that, no, I'm not Human anymore. They have accepted me as one of their own, so I go along with them. I pretend to be human because it's expected of me.

As far as the Humans are concerned, I'm completely normal. I go to work, I pay my rent, I feed my cat, and I make social appearances and participate in conversations about how dumb Congress is or how they need a stop light at Broadway because it's terrifying turning left onto that street. They ask how I'm feeling and if I'm adjusting to their way of life okay. I say that things are great, because no one really wants to hear the real answer.

I can never fully become human or normal again. The consequences of chemo and the transplant will follow me the rest of my life.     


  1. Thank you for sharing this post. beautifully written and your pictures are hilarious.

  2. Wonderful, as always.

  3. So well captured. I know far too many people who could relate to this post. ~Catherine

  4. wen. you are my favorite little alien caveman. they need a stop light at cancer because it's terrifying turning left on THAT street.

  5. Good post. No getting around going through all that changes a person and somethings that seemed important before aren't worth a s&%t anymore. Its amazing how adapatable our bodies can be and we can find new ways to do and enjoy things. Sharing your experience has helped prepare me for my journey into the pretend human club ;)