What’s My Life, Anyway ... ?
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By Cathrine Kellison

What’s My Life, Anyway ... ?

By Cathrine Kellison


What’s my life, anyway? A roll of the dice, a series of blessings and quirks, a collection of moments. As a child of the ’60s, my adventures, my lovers, are all bigger than life. As a child in my 60s, death will come sooner, and when it comes, I will have consumed every second, blessed most days, cursed a couple.

Flowers thrive in my gardens, so do songbirds. Love from my family, my friends wraps me in a warm hazy halo, and cancer has shaped and sharpened my vision. Stage IV colon cancer makes my “To Do” list shorter and my “To Be” list richer and more urgent. I don’t ask why me, but defend my right to be pissed off about it.

One daughter calls me Cathrine, two call me Mom. I’m Nana to my three grandsons and Baby to my husband in our sweeter moments. I’m called a cancer survivor, a cancer victim, a patient, a client. I’ve called many places home—Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, California—and since the chaos of 1968, I have trekked through or lived in a dozen countries. My favorite home is Manhattan, which I’ve loved like a new bride for 30 years.

And for four decades, I’ve been a writer—screenplays, books, articles and curricula. I produce movies about social issues; and my teaching for 15 years at New York University has hopefully awakened a student here or there. In the midst of my jobs, I take gentle care of my body because it has cancer, and it deserves all the love I can give it.

I devour Aristophanes, Reynolds Price, Billy Collins and morbid forensic mysteries. The music of Billy Strayhorn and Radiohead and Sergei Prokofiev and Leonard Cohen fill me to the brim. Gardening renews me for two seasons a year, and National Public Radio connects me to a world that I know can be. My life is an open book—each chapter more delicious than the one before it. Cancer is just one chapter, not the whole book. It will end my life, not define it.

Honestly, I have no idea how one “battles” cancer. I can’t see its face, or feel it gnawing at my insides. There’s no Faustian bargain for my life, so I live with a fury and an energy that looks up most times. Telling the truth is the only weapon at my disposal.

Is cancer a blue bracelet? A marathon? A stoic face in a pharma ad? Is cancer an evasive look in a friend’s eye? Myself, I am not a color, not a statistic, or the face of cancer. I am not my disease—neither victim nor survivor. I am simply Cathrine. And I am living my life like there’s no tomorrow.

Cathrine Kellison is the president of Roseville Video in New York City.

The text and photos (available in the print edition of CR) are from her short film, which can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6TJWHiLPlg.