A friend of mine who has been in my life for over 25 years asked me yesterday (on my birthday) if I hope to be still living when there is a cure for mental illness. At first I was caught off guard as it was unusual for him to say such a thing but instead of letting the disappointment take over me…I simply said no. I knew that no matter how much I wanted him to understand that he would not as obviously he already considers that I am not who I once was, which is partially true. In order to “cure” me of my mental illness it would require changing who I am. Yes, I despise my illness but I do not wish I were someone that I am not. Instead of hoping for a “cure” for mental illness. How about dream and hope for a cure that doesn’t require changing who someone is? The only cure I hope for regarding mental illness is a cure for the stigma against us.
Next week will be one year since I endured yet another biopsy and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer for the second time. With the amount of chemotherapy, radiation and radioactive iodine I have had pumped into my veins, swallowed, and zapped into my body …I am sure it will not be the last. Each treatment comes with great risks of a different cancer than prescribed to treat.
Years from now, whether it’s 20, 30, 40, or 50, there will be a cure for cancer (it is my belief that it is already here). When that time comes remember all those who did not make it out alive. Remember the ones who did. Remember the children, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, girlfriends, boyfriends, brothers, sisters, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins and sometimes complete strangers who spent so much of their time worried about us. For it was those people, our loved ones, who watched us struggle through the weakness, the weight loss, vomit, nausea, calcified salivary glands, skin burns, diarrhea, hair loss, loss of smell, loss of taste, pain in our limbs, muscle cramps, loss of sleep – especially on all nights we had to change our bed linens from all the night sweats, and all of the days when it is hard for us to even see because our eyes constantly water from the dry eyes side effect of the treatment we chose for a chance to live. Also don’t forget the times we triumphed.
All the wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends who took a great risk to love us and give us their time …remember them for they are truly courageous. Remember those who extended an invitation to sit through treatment with us or to drive us to our appointments. Remember them as they knew (even if we didn’t at times) that the strength of our minds was not overpowered by our physical weakness. Remember how their love didn’t let us give up. When we asked if there was a reason to live…you showed us that yes there was a reason to survive until there was no hope left for a life full of quality. You helped us be at peace with that decision when the time came.
So I ask of you… 20, 30, 40, or 50 years from now when there is a cure for cancer, celebrate for me and all of those afflicted by this terrible disease. A cure for the term “cancer” is interchangeable with many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but for me mental illness is not one of them. If ever there is a “cure” for mental illness, I hope that I will no longer be here for the world will definitely lose it’s color …if you know what I mean.