I’m not a big noticer – I live too much in my head – but one evening when I was idly scratching at what I assume was a spider bite on my right breast, I noticed something. A small lump. Not just a nodule, that felt like any number of other nodules. A lump, with a little length, a little width, and the definite feel of “something there.”
Well, there was something there. “A bad actor,” as one doctor put it, after my diagnostic mammogram. We set up an appointment for a needle biopsy. It was positive. I had cancer.
I hadn’t expected this. There's no cancer in my family. I had had panic attacks that seemed to mimic heart attacks. I had a chronic cough all last winter that came with a catch in my throat. Had everything checked out. I was fine. The one thing I let slide was a yearly mammogram – kept meaning to (I’m not quite a fool) but somehow other things came up and nothing hurt. Until that spider bite.
Right away, my life filled up with appointments. I will do almost anything to avoid leaving the house – finishing third novel, reading a Kissinger biography, watching Mr. Robot. Things to do, no place to – well, damn –
people doctors to see.
Then – right in the middle of all the hoop-la – tooth infection, root canal. Appointments, doctors, etc.
All so very annoying.
The good news, I discovered, is that this cancer is actually no big deal. At least that’s the impression I’m getting. I’ve had the lumpectomy. Will soon see (appointments, doctors) a radiation therapist and an oncologist for pills, but aside from the continued annoyance of having to leave the house on an all-too-frequent level, I should be fine. When I posted my condition on Facebook, the first thing I noticed was that everybody else or everybody else’s friends and relatives have had the same thing. Nobody’s dead yet.
Except: Bill and Mary and Lisa and Caroline. Mary was the only one who died of breast cancer, but hers had appeared and metastasized years ago in a much more aggressive form than mine. Bill and Lisa were terminal when they were diagnosed. Brain cancer. Metastasized. “How are you?” I asked Bill on the phone once, before I could recall the words. “I have a headache,” he said. And Lisa, who told me, “I don’t want to leave the party, Barbara.” Caroline calling me one morning. “How ya doin’?” I ask. “I suck,” she says. “I have cancer.” It was ovarian. A year or so later, she called and left a message for me on a Monday. I delayed returning her call. She died on Wednesday.
I tell my doctors I ask only to live long enough for the season finale of Game of Thrones. I’ve already given up on living long enough to read the last volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. I know not to demand too much of the universe.
However, apparently I have nothing to fear but fear itself. And I have remained somehow blissfully unafraid. Not a panic attack to be had anywhere. I blame the anti-depressants. I still think I could die at any minute from something I hadn’t seen coming, but I can’t get myself to worry about it.
But I do find it annoying. A dear friend who means quite well began to tell me about a wonderful book she had heard about on Book TV – some guy writing about all the marvelous advances they’ve made in treating cancers. I finally had to tell her that I just wasn’t interested. Having cancer doesn’t mean that I now have an abiding interest in the subject. To tell you the truth, cancer just bores the hell out of me. Yes, it killed some dear friends of mine, but that doesn’t mean that it warrants my rapt attention. If anything, it richly deserves my utter disinterest. Cancer wasn’t nearly the most interesting thing about my friends. I hope it’s not the most interesting thing about me.
It's just sort of wasting my precious time. And that’s all I want to say about it. Stuff to write, books to read, and Fear the Walking Dead just returned. Fuck you, cancer.