By Magnolia Ripkin

You know when you really connect with somebody? The moment that happens with a friend or a romantic interest when you simply click? That is when you identify them as one of your tribe. They join your crew of people who get you, who understand what drives your thoughts and reactions. Isn’t that the greatest thing?

Over time, that instant connection grows into something more. A deeper knowledge with shared stories and life events. Shit happens, and for the most part your people and you know each other better for having gone through it.

I had that with some pretty special people for a long time. The people who knew me from the “before” and very much understood how I moved through the world, how I would react to situations, what made me mad, happy, sad, all of it. I still have those people, mostly, but now they don’t really get me anymore, now that I am in the “after.” I am so glad they don’t.

When you are living with cancer, the inside of your emotional structure goes through a deep and violent transformation.

Much like other types of trauma. You look and sound like you, but you aren’t you anymore.

I am currently in that new place, and I know I have changed on a fundamental level. It probably doesn’t show so much on the outside because I still look like I care about most of the happier and superficial minutia I always have. But in the deep down, I care much less about some things, and so much more about others. Some of the pressing issues I care about now never even crossed my field of thinking before my diagnosis, I took them for granted.

For instance, I used to care about having nice shoes Now I wonder how this could possibly have been a priority and it boggles my mind. I also cared what people thought of me. I worried that I might be too much. That concern has also been punted out of the metaphorical trapdoor.

Now I care about a new list of items. Not dying is the number one priority. It is followed closely by dreams for my children, including being at their life events live and in person, and not as a photo in their wallets. I care about every minute with my husband, deeply. I care about helping and loving the people in my life more than I ever have.

All of this keen focus on trying to live life comes with an evil and relentless accomplice. Cancer people worry on a subterranean level all….the…time. It is like a deep thudding that you feel in your heart, but hear in your head. It makes us almost seem to be elsewhere. I can tell you that it is because we actually are someplace else. We are having a deep tongue kiss with our terror, and it is possible we have forgotten that you are in the room.

I know my friends notice that I am no longer who I was.

And because they are decent people, they don’t mention it. There are times when I can see they don’t get me, but having cancer privilege they ignore it. I enjoy a bubble of tolerance around me. Nobody cares if I am too tired to show up, and I cancel at the last minute. They know that the fatigue hits like a dump truck. I love them for that.

But the times when I am suddenly cantankerous for seemingly no reason, they don’t see it coming, or understand. When I am ill-tempered, they can’t see a cause, but usually stay on and talk me through it. They can’t possibly comprehend what mechanisms are misfiring in my brain, but still they soldier on.

Sometimes I look at my nearest and dearest and am so glad they carry on being happy with new shoes like it matters. I love that they are still my people, and that they have no idea what it feels like to be me. The now-me, not the me that was me before.

I don’t wish my inner monologue on anyone. It can be a pretty dark place sometimes, and I want them to stay in the sun.


Magnolia Ripkin is sort of like your mouthy Aunt who drinks too much and tells you how to run your life, except funny… well mostly funny… like a cold glass of water in the face. She writes a flagrantly offensive blog at Magnolia Ripkin Advice Blog answering pressing questions about business, personal development, parenting, heck even the bedroom isn’t safe. She is the Editor in Chief at BluntMoms. Other places to find her: Huffington Post,  The Mighty and Modern Loss, The Mid, and Scary Mommy. You can also check her out in two amazing compendiums of bloggers who are published in “I Just Want To Be Alone.”  And most recently, Martinis and Motherhood, Tales of Wonder, Woe and WTF Join her shenanigans on Facebook: Magnolia Advice Blog