I’ve been neglectful of the project of this blog lately, something I feel is right and timely. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I stop writing about cancer entirely.
My MRI was, a nurse said as I stood clutching my cell phone in the parking lot of my place of employment, “a good MRI.” Ie, no signs of malignancy in the left breast.
And the MRI was “a good MRI” overall, really; going to the hospital at 9 AM on a Saturday morning was surreal and quiet, near-peaceful. The nurse who put in my IV was kind; she gave me a warm blanket and said I looked scared. But I wasn’t scared of the experience; it is so familiar–the sharp stab of the needle into the inner fold of my elbow, the tug of blood in the tube, the clicks and whirs of the awful machinery (the tubular monstrosity always reminds me of a photograph of myself with my brother, five years old, sitting in front of a shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center ) in which I lie facedown and half-naked, trying to keep still for twenty-five minutes. I am not afraid of your tools, your accoutrements, surroundings. I am only afraid of my own uncontrollable body.
Dear Readers: I shall continue writing here until the end of August, share my journal entries from the treatment, chronicle a complete year. And then I do not want write this blog any longer. Or, not until the next time I encounter cancer, which I can only hope will be never.
Post MRI state of my life: I am not satisfied, but I am quietened. In this moment, I am not overly desperate for escape. I do not want for anything but to read books, and to be here, and watch in awe as my shattered heart continues to develop its capacity for love.
When I got to work this morning there was an envelope on my desk. I opened it to find it full of literature on “young adults & living after cancer.” It might as well have been anthrax. I felt betrayed by it, strangely, and angered by the well-meaning email from my boss; a friend of hers had published these pamphlets on behalf of someone who’d died from the disease.
I don’t want my disease, its reality, to appear on a Monday morning as simply as a stack of filing. It’s as if every time I open a door, or an envelope or some part of myself, there is cancer in it.
I went to Michigan this weekend. “See you in the fall,” they said. It is such an easy thing to say. For everyone else, so easy to say that in six months, one year, two three four five six years I will do this and that thing.
And then these English Ph.D. people grinning flippantly: “I’m at the end of my first year, and I’m still alive.”
I thought: You really have no idea what that means to me, do you?
But how could you.
Saturday I have an MRI of the left side. Only after those results can I speak with any confidence about something as far away as fall. And I’m terrified of this awful always betrayal of my body. I feel so awfully encumbered by it. And I’m trying not to be embittered by all these people who can read and drink and read and read and pursue their various happinesses, who can consider their deaths as abstract and distant, who can stockpile knowledge soundly in brains undestroyed by chemo.
I wonder if I will ever be a Ph.D. student more completely than I am a cancer patient. I don’t know.
Are you ever actually living “after” cancer?
This morning I had a mammogram.
I thought — the last time I did this, I had two breasts.
I had an ultrasound as well, which resulted in a pseudo-PTSD flashback of the first time I had to have a breast ultrasound, shortly before the needle biopsy left me bruised and and bleeding and crying, riding home alone on the Tube, shocked and dazed and terrified.
Today, the doctor opens with, “I don’t want to scare you, but…”
and ends with, “I’m sorry. You’re too young for this.”
The recommended course of action, apparently, is a screening every six months, alternating mammograms with MRIs. These tests are so panic-inducing, I’m not really sure I’m down with that.
Remember that old Saturday Night Live Land Shark sketch? The Jaws spoof with the shark knocking on the door: “Candygram.”
That’s what I feel like whenever I hear the m-word. That something sinister is lurking on the other side of the door.
Knock knock. Mammogram.
Three days of relative normalcy before I’m due to begin chemo. I know they’ll skip by almost thoughtlessly, and in the weeks and months to come I’ll long for that sense of health. Yesterday the NHS treated me to a battery of tests–bone scan, MRI, CT scan, mammogram–endured with surprisingly few complicaitons and refreshingly good humour. I was in near tears with laughter in the MRI waiting room as two armed guards led in a handcuffed inmate on a metal lead, clanking his chain while I considered the questionnaire: “Do you have anything metal on or about your person?”
I went to the gym this morning for possibly the last time. I left feeling light, unburdened, capable, and came home to a delivery of cardboard boxes in which to pack and deliver my books, my life–a more complicated undertaking than I originally surmised.
More and more today I’ve doubted my decision to stay here. I still have two days to call it all off, I suppose. I’m riddled with guilt; I don’t deserve the support and kindness they’re extending me, and yet I’m taking it all anyway.
I will be trapped wherever I go.
Tomorrow I’ll cut my hair short–become grotesque in stages.
I’ve been able to sleep lately, but am constantly exhausted anyway. It’s been a week. I’ve surprised myself by hardly crying, by making arrangements, or moving toward making them. But I can’t anticipate how it will be to have my body, mind and emotions ruled by drugs. To be so removed from life.
Though I wonder whether anyone will actually notice a difference in my absence.