Not to say that I was ever a hobbit, mind you. I’m not exactly tall, but I’m certainly not as stubby as a hobbit. My feet are kind of big, though, which is a little odd considering that I’m of average height, but they aren’t hairy. Well, I do have a stray hair or two on my toes, but I take care of that! Doesn’t everyone have a few hairs on their toes? So, anyway, I’m definitely not a hobbit. I’ve never been a hobbit. I’m never going to be a hobbit. Hobbits aren’t real.
I know this for a fact because I just got done reading The Hobbit with my son. We homeschool, mostly so I won’t have to help him make stupid dioramas, but also so I have yet another thing I do that indicates how weird I am. My daughter, who is grown, in college, and was not homeschooled (much to her delight) has been urging me to read it forever. She’s a bit of a Tolkien junkie. I would suggest you only get her on the topic of Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of this book if you have a few hours to kill and a high capacity for seething rage.
About a month or so back, my son had read all of the books assigned by our curriculum and we were finished with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We couldn’t decide on what book to read next, so I finally caved to pressure and we started reading The Hobbit. Of course, we loved it from the very first words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” There were a few decent sized gaps while reading it since we were in the middle of moving, but we were always happy to return to it. I was, especially. I found myself getting choked up reading the last chapter, not just from the beautiful words but also from realizing that it was almost over. I get that way with books sometimes.
For those of you that don’t know the story, I won’t spoil it. All you need to know is that Bilbo is the hobbit. He’s been through a fucking ordeal and a half and not by his own choosing. It’s sorta forced upon him. He’s sometimes accompanied by a wizard named Gandalf whose kind of like your parents in that he knows when to let Bilbo fall on his face and when to save his ass. Just like life, nothing on Bilbo’s adventure goes the way it was planned. It’s arduous and harrowing, sometimes tedious and infuriating, but Bilbo makes it out in the end. Now he’s different and Gandalf knows that.
So, I’m reading this to my son and my voice is cracking and I’ve got a few tears about to fall. I was completely relating to Bilbo. Bilbo and I are like twins, except for the fact that I’m real and he’s not and I have a tumor and he fought Goblins and Wargs. Other than that, though, the similarities are eerie. I went through a fucking ordeal that was not of my choosing. I fought to walk independently again after my surgery. I dealt with treatments that sometimes did nothing more than make things worse. I watched those around me go through emotional pains and struggles. I doubted myself and everyone else more times than I can count.
The great thing about The Hobbit is that while Gandalf acknowledges Bilbo has been forever changed by the voyage he’s been on and rose to the occasion rather splendidly on more than one occasion, he is never lauded as the hero. And, like Bilbo, I am not a hero. I’m not more brave than you because I woke up one day with a lump on my hip. I’m not courageous because I did what doctors recommended to kill it. I’m just a person that made a choice that worked best for her. Like Bilbo, I just did what I felt I had to do.
The hero narrative woven into the tale of serious illness tells of a person who fights against all odds, never quitting, always willing to go to battle no matter the outcome. The real story of my fight is that it wasn’t always a fight. Some choices were made from rational dissection of information, some from complete apathy, but mostly it was just a slow plodding along, doing what I was told in hopes that some day it would all be over. On many of those days I understood how one could decide that refusal of treatment was the best for them. Had my tumor not died when it did, I had well prepared myself to opt out of any other treatments, which is easy for me to say considering that I never really had to make that decision.
If you’ve been sick and you’ve been through hell or you know someone who has and the word hero seems appropriate for you, have at it. There is no rulebook for sickness. Just don’t bestow that label upon me. I had my “journey” that I never asked to go on. Luckily for me, it had a decent ending and that may have been because of luck. Or, maybe it was the oral chemo. Who knows? That’s just how the sick cookie crumbles. Sometimes it all works out in the end no matter what you do and sometimes you do everything right and it all goes to shit anyway.
I’m not the same hobbit I was. This tumor made me a different person, in some ways a better one. I’m wiser in some areas and more naive than ever before in others. There are days when I have no idea who I am at all. Sometimes that’s a pill I find hard to swallow. And, while there are moments I’m furious that it ever happened to me, for the most part I’m very thankful for it. Serious illness came and found me, shook my life up, asked me to do things I never thought I could, and profoundly changed me in the process. I’m know I’m not the same person I was and I don’t know what kind of person this tumor will make me in the end, but one thing I can be sure of is that it definitely didn’t turn me into a hero.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.