I have declared mutiny, jumped ship, gone AWOL, what have you. Around 12:30, with the lights off and everyone asleep, I slipped away from my aunt’s bedside, put on my coat, walked down three flights of stairs, and exited the hospital. I had hit the wall.

I have been at the hospital almost every night for the last week, including the last three days in a row, and today, I started feeling stir crazy for the first time. There wasn’t any real, concrete reason. My aunt’s final diagnosis was, while not perfect, still pretty good. Although it turned out my aunt DID have clear cell carcinoma (the trickier and more-prone-to-returning form of endometrial cancer), it was confirmed that they had caught it at Stage 1A, which is pretty much the earliest possible, so our main doctor and the hospital’s radiologist both agreed that my aunt wouldn’t need further treatment, neither radiation nor chemotherapy. Despite the good news, I felt frustration and a kind of panic attack growing from somewhere within me, and I knew I had to get out of that bed and out of the hospital to rejoin the world outside, if only for an hour or two.

It’s 1:36 A.M. now, and with a KFC chicken sandwich newly devoured within me and a computer at my fingertips at this Internet cafe, I feel a whole lot better. As much as I love my aunt and the rest of my family, the truly defining trait of my character is the overwhelming need for freedom, the freedom to live my life the way I want to. Although I wanted to help my aunt and be there for her the way I was, I could also feel myself growing dim and starting to suffocate, unable and unwilling to breathe someone else’s air for too long. So I am here, to breathe in a few more gulps to save me from drowning before I return to my aunt’s bedside. As Joni Mitchell said it so well, “We love our lovin’, but not like we love our freedom.” I hear you, Joni. I hear you.

Help Me – Joni Mitchell

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