Live your life

When you finish your cancer treatment, after the last radiation and the last chemotherapy and the surgery, they tell you to go and live your life. They will use those very words, most likely: “Go and live your life.” A benediction. An encouragement. A permission.

This is as if your life was like a book with a marker in it that you set down on the coffee table when the diagnosis came, and now you can go back to your comfortable chair by the fireplace and take up the story again where you left off. The story is still the same as it would have been if you had never set it down. Just turn on your lamp and toss another log on the fire. It’s all the same.

But nothing is ever all the same. The book has been misplaced. Someone has put it back on the shelf, perhaps. Someone set it on another table in another room, somewhere out of the way.

There are other books to read on the shelf, but they are not the book that you want right now. There is always the possibility of a lucky accident showing you where the book you want is, but it’s in another room, not the room you intended to be in. And the story you set down is strange to your eyes, and all of the characters unheard of and new. And you have to start again because it’s not the story that you remember.