I always enjoy Susan Gubar's columns from the New York Times, and this one about parties especially grabbed me. Parties and other social events beyond getting together with family or a few, very few, close friends were always a big deal for me when I was on chemotherapy. The easy excuse was that I didn't feel very well and surely was not much interested in most party food and beverages. The real reasons were more complex and harder to articulate.
It all just feel overwhelming, too stimulating, too much. And made me feel very vulnerable and small--not a way I like to think of myself. There were surely flashes of envy of healthy people and moments of self pity, but, mostly, I felt way out of my element and safe zone. Susan Gubar seems to have found a way to negotiate these scenes better than I ever did. I tried not to go to things, but sometimes they were necessary. I have a picture taken at a large work event; I was wearing a nice dress and a hat, decorated with a beautiful silk scarf. I remember thinking that I looked pretty well; I didn't. I look horrible, ill and wan and pathetic, in the picture, and I cringe when I see it. I keep that picture as a reminder of how far I have come and how lucky I am.
Here is the start of her essay and a link to read more:
Living With Cancer: Life of the Party
By SUSAN GUBAR
The prospect of a party frightened me — probably because the enforced isolation of cancer treatments has rendered me hypersensitive. It was raining outside and festivities would not begin until after 8 p.m. But my husband and I had promised to attend the celebration of a book publication. So we dragged ourselves to Judith and Aidan’s house where I hoped to find a comfortable chair in which I would not look like the battle-ax at Mrs. Dalloway’s party whom everyone had thought long dead.
The house, crowded with people clutching drinks, pulsed with their robust vitality. Before the cancer diagnosis, I would have moved around the room schmoozing with a series of acquaintances while getting a tad tipsy. Now I was determined to have a drink, but I would need to sit down, and I could not control who might sit with me or indeed whether anyone would. Still, sit I had to do while dealing with a hideous mix of nostalgia, jealousy and self-pity