in recent years


this mutation

There are maybe three phone calls that you’d really describe as the worst in your life: the person you love most in the world has been killed or severely injured, your beloved pet has been killed or severely injured, your doctor has test results and they’re not good.

I got the third — for which I’m grateful, to be honest, the other two are worse — and it was the worst phone call of my life after the worst, most anxiety-riddled three weeks of my life.

My girlfriend took the call for me — the saint she is, appeasing my anxiety at the cost of her own, always — so I can’t recount it in perfect detail but the gist was, “You have cancer. We thought it might be a worse, more rare cancer, so we had to send all your bits and pieces away to be double-checked which is why it’s been three weeks, but no, you’ve just got the regular ol’ garden variety of endometrial cancer.”

Cancer is not a fun word, it’s not a kind word. It sounds ugly and feels wet and clunky and hiss-filled in the mouth. It effortlessly terrifies everyone who speaks English, makes them simultaneously recoil and lurch toward you in apology and pity.

I am 28 years old and I have endometrial cancer.

I have cancer. This is what I say to myself every morning upon waking and every night as I try to fall asleep. It’s a constant, gently barbing hum at the back of my throat any time my mind quiets. Sometimes, like the evening that followed the worst phone call of my life, it isn’t quiet. I say it aloud because if I don’t remind myself that it is real, I cannot cope. I fear I will forget and my life will return to normal without me realizing and it will come again and strip it away from me again, fresh and brutal.

I have cancer.

Sometimes it comes out like a cough, sudden and jarring, scratching at my throat. My eyes water and sting, but it passes quickly — a swallow of water down the wrong pipe — and everything’s okay again.

The night I learned he results of my labs, I looked in the bathroom mirror and fluffed my hair and stroked the skin under my eyes because I still haven’t found an eye cream I want to buy. (I’m almost 30 and I live in a place where the temperature is regularly 20 below, hydration is a priority.) I looked into a face that has cleared up tremendously in the last few weeks because of a drastic change in diet and exercise, my color finally returning to me after months of severe blood loss that necessitated two separate blood transfusions and a total of nine pints of strange blood commingling with my own. I looked in the mirror and I smiled and I said, “I have cancer and I have never looked more beautiful.”

My narcissism truly knows no bounds.

“I am reading Gone Girl on my Kindle and I have cancer.”

“I am shopping for a desk lamp at Target while having cancer.”

“I have cancer and I am moisturizing my face.” “I have cancer and I’m deep conditioning my hair.” “I’m cleaning the bathroom and I have cancer.”

It’s a refrain to center my reality. For now, this thing inside of me, this vicious brutality of mutation is part of me and I must learn it, acknowledge it, accept it.

Cancer will — hopefully, prayerfully, “Please, oh please”-fully — not always be my reality, the center of my every breath, but for now it is.

I have cancer.

I have cancer and with luck, it’ll all be fine.

I am Ash, I have cancer, and I’m doing okay, really.

  • Carina MacKenzie

    Oh no. I was hoping this was not it. I love you & I’m thinking of you.

    • ash

      thank you, lady! <33 the good thoughts and messages help SO MUCH i can't believe it

  • psiphy

    You have cancer, yes, but it doesn’t have you.

    • ash

      <33 thanks so much, sylvia!

  • <3333

    • ash

      <333 missin' you!

  • i’m so so sorry to hear this. someone very close to me had cancer last year and it felt like it was lurking under every thought i had for months and months. i can’t even imagine how it feels to have that person be you.

    • ash

      thanks, rae! i am really lucky (weird to say in a post about cancer) because this one is very treatable AND my prognosis is very hopeful and positive. i guess if there’s a cancer to have, one that’s really treatable is the way to go. <3

  • Bruce Stewart

    I went through a cancer scare last year, It was touch and go for a while, but I got lucky and it’s okay now.
    In addition to more conventional therapy, you might think about adopting
    t an alkaline diet. From what I have gathered, cancer has a hard time in an alkaline environment and thrives in an acidic one. Good luck and may God- or whatever you believe in- give you comfort and help with your healing.

    • ash

      thanks, bruce! appreciate it

  • This is. The worst.


    • ash

      it is! but my prognosis is hopeful and i am feeling really good in general, so it’ll be okay <3

    • Zo Manik

      This is seriously my response. SO many f-bombs so little time. I want to make a cancer pinata for you and beat the living shit out of it. And instead of candy, little poems and dashboard hula girls and boys will fall out. Fuck cancer. I am angry for you and am soooo sooooo happy to hear that things are looking upright for you! Please please please keep me posted. PS HAWT lipstick.

      • ash

        <3333 thanks, sweets!! the prognosis is very hopeful and i am feeling so, so much better that it's a lot easier to deal with than i could've ever imagined it would be!

        ps: THANKS! it's a revlon matte balm stain in shameless. great color AND a great name <3

  • You have cancer and your lipstick color is amazing.
    I’m sorry you have this awful thing, but damn do you have a good attitude about it and that makes all the difference. I hear cancer runs from good attitude like those cartoon mucus globs run from Mucinex.

    • ash

      thank you so so much <333

  • Ciara

    I stumbled across your blog via your “review-ish” of Bath and BodyWorks candles and saw this post pop up on the sidebar. Girl, I’m so so sorry this is happening to you. That is the worst fucking news. This week I got diagnosed with cancer and your words were just.. relatable. I’ve been doing the “I am drinking a beer and I have cancer” thing and its the weirdest feeling. Your positive attitude is inspiring and I wish you nothing but the best sister. Sending you good vibes and prayers.

    • ash

      thank you so so much! i am wishing you the best and sending you tons of good vibes! if you ever need someone to talk to, i am here. you can get through this <3