Life Liquor, Distilled by Cancer

Last updated: July 2020

Cancer has an effect on all areas of life, there is no one that can claim otherwise. Social life, love life, work-life, even online life, all are affected by the big C. It’s such a huge thing, cancer, eclipsing everything in its path, we forget that it also does the opposite. What do I mean? Well, cancer has a way of distilling down life to its essence, making it easier to see what’s truly there.

Life liquor distilled by cancer is a heady, strong aperitif, and it makes for some interesting outcomes. Kind of like real liquor does when it comes strong. Or cheap. Or both.

The first shot of cancer

When you are first diagnosed, it is extremely similar to taking that first shot of alcohol of the night. No matter how good the drink is, no matter the brand, age, or type, it burns. It burns like the 10 dollar handle of vodka you bought when you were in high school at the back door of the gas station in the seedy area in the next town over. I heard. Is a thing that happens.

It’s a shock to the system, and it seems like it takes forever to settle down. Your emotions are in upheaval, just like your stomach was after a few shots of cheap liquor from a plastic bottle, and nothing but time is going to salve that hurt. It is fear and anticipation and longing to understand all distilled down to a single, epic, awful, vomit-inducing, gut-punching, shot.

Things begin to settle

After you have had time to let things settle down, it gets easier to swallow all the awfulness that comes with cancer. Just like the cheap beer that you used to buy by the case in college, you reach the point when it doesn’t burn as much when the bad news comes. Your stomach doesn’t jump every time you take a sip, get a call from the doc, and you don’t end up vomiting all over the passenger side window of your friend’s brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee. You are experienced, you can handle the drink, and you can handle the mouth sores, the chemo rashes and nausea, the bone pain from the Neulasta, and the fact you have no appetite, but you have to eat.

All the wonderful things that come along with chemo just seem to slide by, just like beer that tasted like it was brewed inside of an old work boot they found in a junk pile. Boot brew, a junk pile small-batch IPA.

Getting fed up with it all

Eventually, you get to the point where you have had too much to drink. It happens to everyone and it happened to you, finally. You drank beer before liquor, and you never were sicker – until you had chemo that is, and then you just got fed up. Then everything starts to bother you. That guy at the end of the bar who keeps giving you the eye, the stupid handle for the bathroom door that won’t lock, the fact that the nurse can’t find a vein for your IV and has to stick you three times, and the two-hour wait when you come in for chemo. It just gets to a point where it’s all too much and it starts to feel like everything is spinning.

God, the spins, the dreaded spins. The point when you know you’ve drunk way too much, and the point in chemo when everything feels like it’s racing at 100 miles per hour and there’s no stopping it. Friends and family members seem to be able to do nothing but annoy you, and the interactions you have are distilled down to their base. If someone is a jerk, their true colors will show and cut through all the usual BS social back and forth that disguises that sort of thing. Cancer, like alcohol, has a way of doing that. As I have been heard to say many times before, cancer isn’t the ghost of Christmas past. If you someone was a jerk to you before cancer, even if they disguised it behind pity invitations and backhanded compliments, they will still be a jerk after you have cancer.

And here comes the bill...

Finally comes the bill. The bar bill, the medical bills, the cancer bill. All the bills. It’s time to pay, and the hangover is epic. You drank cheap beer and then washed it down with peach liquor and white Russians and spent all night praying to the porcelain god of the bathroom. Chemo is ending, and you have a pile of real-life sitting in front of you that you’ve been putting off, and it’s ready for you to adult the crap out of it. Everything you have been shoving the side is now there, in front of you, and has to be taken care of in short order. All the things that make up a life, distilled, sitting in a pile on your table. If you needed a reminder of just what real life feels like, that legion of white Russian hangover headache hospital bills and relationships that need to be repaid will remind you in spectacular fashion. In some ways, it’s a comfort, since it means things will eventually get back to normal. Then again, it’s going to be one hell of a catch-up month and hangover day in bed.

In the end, you say what we all say, “I’ll NEVER drink like that again. I’ll eat healthily and exercise from now on!” Of course, we don’t. We eventually forget, and we are right back at that bar, except now we drink pints of micro-brew IPA, and eat organic beef burgers, and smoke fair-trade Cuban cigars, but we still do to excess. Why? Mainly because that’s some of the best parts of life, and we can’t live in fear of cancer or anything else, or else what’s the point? Cancer makes things very unclear and then exceptionally clear, and then you get angry, and then you throw up. Just like alcohol. Talk soon.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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