I couldn’t see what or who was attacking me. An oppressive blackness surrounded me. A blanket of terror wrapped itself around me. I screamed again and again as a thousand teeth ripped into my right shoulder.
If I slept at all that night, I don’t remember doing so. I do remember that what occurred the next morning was even more disturbing.
At 6 a.m. on May 13, I dragged myself from the bed. I padded barefoot and naked down the hallway toward the bathroom. Upon approaching the bathroom doorway, I looked up where I could see myself in the large mirror. That’s when I was truly horrified. The me I saw in the mirror looked back at me and said, “Your cancer is back.”
It was June 6 the day I found it. I was soaking in the bathtub trying to relax my muscles and my mind. I picked up the razor to shave my underarms. That’s when I felt it with the index and middle finger of my left hand. A lump.
“No. I’m just imagining it,” I thought.
I probed with my fingers again. Yes, there it was — a lump the size of a golf ball.
It should have been more dramatic. The circumstances were too ordinary for such an extraordinary discovery.
A few minutes later, as I lay dumbstruck in the bath water, a friend called asking me to meet her for a glass of wine, which I agreed to do. I got out of the bath, dried and stood before the mirror in the bathroom. My own eyes stared back at me, questioningly. I thought, “How do I do this?”
Let’s face it, finding a lump is like finding a monster. I knew this monster. I’d experienced its terror three years earlier when I was diagnosed with lymphoma.
My terrible dream, of less than a month before had been a warning that this monster had returned.
“How do I do this?”
While brooding over this question, I dressed. Silently, I put on makeup and perfume and readied myself to meet my friend for happy hour.
Monsters are embodiments of everything that frighten us. While a child, monsters were large creatures to be afraid of.
And now, this lump.
I took a practical approach and scheduled myself for a well woman exam. But, the soonest my doctor could see me was in July. More than one month away!
In the meantime, how was I supposed to do this? I was in the midst of a divorce, which was supposed to be concluded in July. In the interim, I was living at a friend’s house. It seemed like too much to deal with all at once.
I would wait and see. I’d wait until my well woman exam in July when I’d find out something. And hopefully, before then, my divorce would be behind me.
But I asked myself, “What do I do in the meantime?”
Myself answered me quickly. “In the meantime, you’ll go about the business of your life. You’ll be quiet. You’ll be peaceful. You’ll act with courage.”
Have you ever listened to yourself? I don’t mean listening to yourself when you’re talking to others. We’ve all heard ourselves talk.
No, I mean, have you ever listened to yourself? Have you listened to that quiet voice that resonates from somewhere down in your gut?
It’s a voice I don’t hear often, not nearly as often as I should. In me, that voice had never made a mistake.
“But I think it’s just made its first mistake.”
I was angry. How could it, myself, expect me to go about the business of my ordinary everyday life while being quiet and peaceful? I wanted myself to feel compassion for me. I wanted some sympathy. No, I wanted some goddamned pity!
I didn’t get any. I had no energy or time to waste with pity.
An ongoing story
After returning home from happy hour the night before, I was seized by the thought that I needed to write down what was happening to me.
I’m not sure why. Many people have gone through battles with cancer and even far worse situations, so it certainly wasn’t because I thought my particular case was going to be extraordinary.
Nevertheless, the prompting to record my experiences of the past six months and of those to come wouldn’t subside. I decided to listen to myself and obey my inner prompting.
I began to write. I’ve continued writing about what’s happening in my life.
This is an ongoing story.
I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I’m not writing with the benefit or clarity of hindsight, but telling as I go. Writing as I experience.
You and I are going through this together.
I will say I have very high hopes for the main character.