I survived two cancers in 2008. Last week, tests revealed a potential recurrence.
[For those who have waited]
The doctor uttered “lump” and “lymph.”
Breast and neck.
Sobering alone. Terrifying together.
I felt my future flutter shut.
A mountain of mortality smudged shadows across my mind.
Cancer triggers hurled their venom: articles, obituaries, science, films and fads.
Facebook’s fangs dug deep. I clicked the X and closed the noxious litany.
Friends and family. Gratitude.
Genuine joy anesthetized the sting.
And then it speared again. (Those triggers. Everywhere.)
Time passed. Potential peril scored its path into a deeper fear.
Babies made me cry.
Arguments—the trivial kind—made my anger flash.
Hallmark ads… I bit my lip and told my hands to still.
Whining made me spiteful—“I’m dying here! Deal with the snow.”
Sleepless hours saw fretting take control.
Medicine and mortality locked in uneven warfare.
It always does.
Eventually. It wins.
“Jesus” spoken softly dispelled the clammy thoughts.
I said it frequently.
I said it fervently.
I said it pleadingly.
Days passed. Answers loomed nearer.
I braced for the face-off.
My wrinkles made me yearn for enough years to see them deepen.
My cellulite reminded me of abundance, indulgence. Health.
My body, scarred and altered by the battles waged—
A field of victory—
Trench of futility?
Late-night hours cast disease on the stained backdrop of my mind.
Hair sheered off.
Life torn short.
Prayer became more of a mystery—more a necessity.
I clung to the reminders that I wasn’t quite dead yet.
My spirits rose and wavered and endured and overcame and sank again.
Tests—the white-robed, spinning, crushing kind.
Then the verdict: Not cancer—not this time.
And I felt guilt.
Right next to me—in the same waiting room—
A friend from cancer-foreign past.
Unforeseen connection in a place of stoic masks.
While I squelched my relief, she managed her foreboding.
I whispered “I’m okay” in answer to her question.
Kindness wrestled weakness in her eyes.
I shed my pastel, flowered gown.
My heart skipped Joy while my mind cringed.
I’d gotten the reprieve.
My friend may not.