Envy. It’s a sharp, pointy little word, isn’t it? It even looks venomous. Jealous seems rounder, softer. But if you look them up in the dictionary, the definition of jealous has much more barb behind it…
adjective – feeling resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages
noun – a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, or possessions
If I hadn’t actually looked up the definitions, I would’ve probably written this post using the word jealousy, but envy is more accurate. I don’t know if it’s possible to truly convey all the different thoughts and emotions you have when you’re facing what I am, no matter how good of a writer you are. But I have to tell you that envy is one of them. It’s not a big one, but it’s there. It hovers quietly in the back of my mind, waiting for certain moments in a conversation or snapshots of others living their lives in a way that I never will again. It’s hard for me, and it really stings. I don’t want to feel this way, especially when it comes to friends and family. But it’s my reality, and to deny that it exists isn’t fair to me, or to my readers. I promised myself that I would be totally honest with this blog, and so I have to write this. I hope no one takes offense because I certainly hold nothing against any one of you. The envy is a double-edged sword, because while I may constantly harbor this unwanted guest, I also maintain an acute desire for all of you to have the things that I am covetous of for many, many years to come.
I am confident that anyone in my situation struggles through each day no matter what age they may be, but there are many things that I struggle with at 34 that I think I can safely say the majority of people with stage IV cancer do not have to endure. It’s extremely hard knowing that there will come a day that I will not be able to mother my son — no bedtime stories, morning snuggles, or kisses to make the boo boo’s better. He will probably be too young to understand why, and I worry so much how this will affect him emotionally. When I think about dying I grieve for his loss — how painful and confusing it will be for him, and how difficult it will be for my husband to hear him calling out for me. These things make me envious of my friends. Being Generation X’ers, many of us waited until our early 30’s to marry and have children, choosing to spend our 20’s wrapping up our education and focusing on our careers. The result of that is a Facebook feed that is constantly streaming with newborn photos, second and third pregnancy announcements, pictures of family vacations, chocolate chip cookie smiles, new backpacks for school…I could go on for hours. From the momentous to the trivial, I’m simultaneously overjoyed for my friends and reminded of the things my family will be denied. It’s often hard to talk to them now because in so many ways their lives are just beginning. Spending time with them can be challenging for me as I listen to tales of nights out with other couples, inside jokes and parties missed, plans for home updates, career advancements. It hurts, and then I feel guilty for being envious. It happens with family, too. Conversation tends to be a little more familiar and I think that sometimes allows them to slip into a bit of denial because they are always around. This means that there’s a lot of talk about the future — about Owen growing up, my sister and brother-in-law settling down and having nieces or nephews that I will never get to hold, family reunions. It’s difficult and I try to bury the feelings before they can see it in my eyes.
Now that I’ve been diagnosed with metastases to the brain I am dealing with an entirely new set of emotions, but the envy is still there. Until this diagnosis and treatment I have been relatively well except during chemo. Learning to accept my new situation in combination with whole brain radiation therapy has taken a piece of me that I’m afraid is gone forever. I feel different now, I’m not quite myself. I’m struggling with the littlest things in addition to the big ones — so the envy is different. I’m envious of being able to walk without looking at your feet, of cutting a peach in less than three minutes, talking without concentrating on each word you say, remembering what you said five minutes ago or following a conversation with ease. Things have changed drastically and it’s so very much harder for me than the bleak and raw New Year’s Eve when I found out I was dying. I can’t drive. I can’t think straight. I have a hard time maneuvering through the day. My eyes are out of focus and I don’t talk much. I am at risk of developing dementia within six months. This scares me and makes me worry constantly about what kind of mom I will be to Owen now, what kind of wife, sister, daughter, friend. I am afraid for my career, which introduces an entirely overwhelming set of worries that I don’t want to think about. On top of it all there is the envy — still there, still hovering — except now I’m not envious of others but of who I used to be, and that is devastating.