Here’s a secret. I’m a bit of a wreck. It hit the other night as my partner lay sleeping. I explored my lower right abdomen wondering if I could trace my dull discomfort deep within to cancer I could actually feel. I stayed up a lot that night. The next day, with light, I continued the exploration. If there is cancer growing within, my fingers are not the ones to detect it. A small relief.
I am in the countdown to testing. It’s been awhile since I have faced freak-out tests. While scans and blood results always come with anxiety, this round, scheduled for next week, returns me to the sensations of 2012 when my body and mind crumbled as each testing cycle that year revealed more bad news.
I know I should ‘make a plan then work it’ but what would that plan be. It probably wouldn’t be me walking the streets of Philly for two days of treatment combined with testing then getting the test results – alone. But then I try to imagine the elegant plan, being attended to by my many loved ones buffering the blows, and I don’t see the corroding pit deep in my stomach unclenching. I am alone – this adapting to my revised expiration date is an inherently solo and lonely process. At least for me. This solitary journey towards the update is not the problem. The problem is the news I fear getting. There is no safety net large enough to cushion the blow of my cancer doing an end run around this immunology trial.
Better to plan around the concrete stomach churning and shallowness of breath as anxiety locks down my systems. Better to dig out the tools taught me for calm, so I complete the simple meditation exercises that assist my body and mind in melding to the moment – never quite as bad a moment when approached with such attentiveness. Better to hunker down with the coping and resurface when I know my new reality.
But I leave you with this memory.
Amid getting my diagnosis on the side of a highway, as my ER doctor shared the test results that showed I had advanced cancer of still unknown origin, there was magic. My daily life is not filled with magic so I have learned to enjoy it when it does show up.
I had pulled the car over when my cell phone rang that rainy April late afternoon in 2010. It was a point on the road right below a dear friend’s home. It’s a quiet stretch of road so the call coming just then was fortuitous. As I sat in the car hearing the messages that chilled my blood for their tone, I prepped for making the call back. Just then the phone in my hand rang anew. Another dear friend had spotted my car on the side of the highway and called asking, “What’s up?” I explained, “I am having an emotional breakdown.” She said, “Want company?” I said yes. Within 30 seconds she was pulling open the passenger door and slipping in. I told her I was pretty sure I was about to get devastating news. I made the call, heard the doctor’s words, repeated them back so that Cara would know the verdict and said goodbye to the doctor.
I have wondered since then what others do when given the news that their life as they constructed it is done.
Cara and I held hands. I think I wept, silently. I said, “Let’s see if Kelley is home and call in the team.” Of course Cara knew exactly what to do as did the at-home Kelley. In fact, both my husband and yet another dear friend were already frantically en route, the doctor having given them the news prior to me. Within minutes we were gathering in Kelley’s living room, which she was setting up like a cozy bistro with foods flowing and plentiful seating. I went upstairs to call my family and collapse in loud pain. When I came back down the living room was filled with a circle of love, people prepared to walk wherever I needed that night and the longer term as we all committed to my new path. My strongest memory is maintaining deep eye contact with each individual as I relentlessly asked them to pledge to stay by my side, to help me delay death. And they have. It doesn’t mean that some sections of this road I still travel alone.
Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts this next week.
Much love, marcy