Rowan's chemotherapy treatment.

Cancer, Loss, Change

I frankly admit that I haven't done any traditional research into coping with cancer. I hope that my experiences here are fairly representative. Cancer infects every aspect of one's life. While dealing with Rowan's cancer, even everyday tasks became difficult. I never knew when the cancer would find me. I remember standing in a grocery store in Miami looking for string cheese and just losing it in the dairy aisle. Of course, I wasn't simply losing it. I was losing me. Because, especially in those early months when we couldn't know whether the cancer would spread out of Rowan's eye, nothing felt normal and we never felt ourselves. Of course, one can point to the context and rightly say that nothing was normal. But more than that, I would theorize that we were no longer ourselves. Cancer, and its specter of impending death, forced upon us the need for a completely new narrative and hence had engendered the emergence of new people. I am still getting to know me. To this day my wife will often say "I still don't feel myself." I know the feeling. It is likely tied to a resistance to accept what we have become even as we know we are transforming.

In Breaking Up (at) Totality, D. Diane Davis (2005) points toward kairotic laughter as an indication of the beyond-consciousness underlying our self-knowledge (see particularly pp. 21-24). Recalling an inability to stop laughing in church, Davis writes:

My whole Being wants desperately NOT to laugh, and yet it's clear to me that my will is not in control. [...] I fight desperately for control. But to no avail. My body has been possessed by the force of laughter: Despite my reason and my will, laughter BURSTS out. The battle is over: "I" have been conquered (p. 22).

I would contribute to this theory by noting that affective displacement can emerge as a laugh or tears. Davis describes a singular kairotic moment in which we temporarily lose ourselves. I hope, in this section, to describe something of a different duration.