Friday, July 31, 2009

happy frickin' anniversary

June 23, 2009
Last day of a 30-day course of radiation. No Problem! Piece o' cake compared to chemo! Feel great! Garden sprouts! Hair and a Tan! New pink bicycle! Summer! Dancing!

REWIND (cue scratchy backwards record sound)

July 24, 2008
Husband informs me (as soon as I am all happy-dreamy-post-orgasmic) that he felt an abnormal lump in my breast while we were having sex. He shows concern. I choose to go into instant denial, and don't even dare look at or touch myself until the next day.

July 25, 2008
Leave for a two-night camping trip near Princeton Hot Springs for the weekend. Spend the time soaking and hiking and trying not to touch it or to worry. It's the weekend, and figure can't get in to see the doc 'til Monday anyway. Still in denial.

July 27, 2008 - late Sunday night in my own bed after two nights of camping
Cry. Because I know.

July 28th - early Monday morn
Call to make an appointment with Dr. Zirkle, my young and handsome PCP. He's not there, so I see a woman NP who fondles my right breast with a questioning look on her face. Don't remember her name, but she makes an appointment straight away for a diagnostic ultrasound the next day. Call Sara on the way home. Cry. Pick up boys at the Burkles for what they thought was a playdate.

July 29, 2008
Diagnostic ultrasound. Suzanne shows up. I thought I wouldn't need anyone. It's just a little test, after all. Glad she's there, after all.

"Right breast diagnostic ultrasound dated July 29, 2008, shows a dense breast parenchymal pattern with an abnormality corresponding to a 2.1 cm cm in greatest dimension, hypoechoic lesion with irregular margins." Oh crap, a whole new vocabulary to learn; the exact one I never ever wanted to learn. They want to schedule a needle biopsy next week... the only way to know for sure if it is cancerous or not.

Hysterically, tearfully, tell whoever will listen that I DON'T HAVE TIME! BY THE TIME MY MOTHER WAS DIAGNOSED, SHE WAS AT STAGE 4! DON'T YOU GET IT PEOPLE?! I DON'T. HAVE. TIME! Get biopsy scheduled for 31st.

Dammit, I think to myself, here we go...

July 30, 2008

I decide to tell no one else until I get the biopsy sense worrying others about something that may turn out to be nothing. There's a pretty good chance, I keep telling myself, that it might be, you know, like a cyst or something.

Get mad at husband for telling his mother, because I don't want her to worry about me. Then quickly realize that he needs someone to tell as well.

July 31, 2008
I return for an "uncomplicated" ultrasound-guided needle biopsy. John comes with me this time. I learn another new vocabulary word: Axilla. Think it would make a great name for a Sci-Fi badass female character or a Derby Dame. Learn it's really just a complicated word for "armpit". Still think it would make a great name.

July 31-August 5th

Try to do the laundry and talk with friends and read to the boys before bed. Every day is an eternity. I remember a band called 'Til Tuesday. I just have to make it 'til Tuesday. Because that's the day I'll get the results.

Spend my waiting days with a 2 cm secret, a stoic smile, a welcoming kitchen table and an even-keeled telephone voice. I am not one for holding in anything, so this is a particularly difficult time for me. For once, I ask more questions of others, instead of talking about myself. Lying in bed at night, I barely hold on to my sanity. Give me chemotherapy any day over this hell of not-knowing!

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008
The second anniversary of my mother's death from breast cancer. I'm invited to what sounds like a lovely garden party, but I just can't make myself go. I can't believe that the world keeps spinning, that people keep going to work and making love and having parties. It just doesn't seem right.

Morning of August 5th, 2008. Tuesday.
I know the moment the nurse opens that door into the waiting room and calls my name. I can see it in her face, hear it in her voice. John and I stumble through the door, take a thousand steps down the hall, and are ushered into a tiny conference room on the right. The wonderful, motherly, optimistic ("this doesn't really look like cancer") radiologist who performed the biopsy all those years (6 days!?) ago isn't in the office today, so a man who knows absolutely nothing about me presents me with a huge white binder and these words: "You have invasive ductal carcinoma." Just like that. They don't even say cancer. Bastards.

Afternoon of August 5th, 2008
In order to occupy my mind, I try and accomplish some menial household tasks. I empty the dishwasher, slowly, dish by dish, taking note of each one, how it feels in the hand, how it shines in the light. After that, I simply end up pacing the house or lying on my bed. Doing "normal" things takes on a surreal edge. A hyper awareness permeates my every move, every step, every breath, every word. I am restless, and in shock, and don't know what to do with myself.

Evening of August 5th, 2008
I call Mike Carsten to see if he is working. He is. I ask him to make me a Cosmo and tell him I will be there soon. John stays home with the boys. I predict this will be the first time I ever sit at a bar alone and tell the bartender my problems. When I walk in to 15C, I am somewhat relieved to see Bettina and Aaron sitting at the bar. I sit down in front of my drink, and ask Bettina for a cigarette. After a slow sip and a deep inhale, I look at Mike across the bar and utter, matter-of-factly, "I have breast cancer." That singular moment will be etched in my brain forever.

Sara shows up. I drink another pink Cosmo. Bettina tells me I have a "pass", so I smoke one more, or maybe several more, of her pink Camels.

August 6, 2008
My first day of school. I am hungover and miserable and sitting in a meeting at 8 am. At least my boss knows, as Sara had the forethought to call her from the bar last night and tell her.

I want to drink and throw beer bottles out into the street and hear them crash.

July 31, 2009
So you see, here we are now, exactly a year later. From the end of radiation until about a week ago, I felt like a million bucks. Reborn. Then last week, emotions (but not necessarily memories) began surfacing, unbidden, and at inopportune and unexpected times.

Perhaps I felt them more because we were on vacation, relaxed, and I was more in tune with myself and not engaged in the daily duties of home.

In the "tummy of the Earth" (as Grant called it-otherwise known as Wind Cave), my body went into shock, and I cried for the stillness and the darkness of it all, yet happy in the knowledge that our complex planet has no concern for our trivial human problems.

My anger resurfaced for no apparent reason one morning at the Coach House (John's childhood vacation home in Wisconsin). In the process of making scrambled eggs, I went out onto the porch and threw an egg at a tree with every bit of strength I had. To hear it splat gave me great satisfaction!

While riding on country roads, I felt again that hyper awareness, that surreal edge. I felt as if I could ride forever among the cornfields and silos and old cemeteries.

Now I'm home. The summer is coming to a close, and another school year is about to begin. My mind and body are sorting out the events of the past year.

Welcome to Year 2.

Friday, July 3, 2009

the perfect yellow

My best friend in high school had this poster on her wall, right where we could lie on her water bed and stare at it, dreamy-eyed, for hours. It was 1983. I wonder if she still has it, stored away in some dark place with all the other relics of youth. Seeing it now, I can almost feel the adolescent idolatrous idealist inside of me.

Last night, I danced with two friends to a whole set of nothing but Michael Jackson tunes, at a Denver club where most of the patrons were half our age. They ate sushi; I ate edamame. We were overdressed and didn't give a shit, because we were all wearing something that made us happy. The young men could tell we were dancing in our own little worlds, and they mostly seemed to respect that somehow, even as they joined in. Smiles and just plain fun all around.

Tonight, my sons and I stayed up way past our bedtimes, watching videos of "Beat It" (followed, of course, by "Eat It", at which they laughed hysterically), "Billie Jean", "ABC", and others. A cultural history lesson via youtube. Tomorrow morning, when night has turned to day once again, and the world feels just a little bit safer, we will watch "Thriller". Zombies. Dancing. How could that NOT be good?! Revolutionary, even.

It's all pretty messed up, I know, what with the whole Michael Jackson corpse extravaganza thing and all. Believe me, I KNOW people die every single goddamn day from all sorts of causes: some naturally tragic, some insanely stupid, others completely preventable.

But I really can't get all worked up about either the fanaticism of it all, or the criticism of it all.

All that matters to me, at this moment, is that he be remembered for his music. And the memories he has gifted, at great expense to himself, to an entire generation. That was some kinda magic. Let us all be judged on what we did well. On whatever bit of magic we managed to bring into the world.

I have been contemplating my beige-walled kitchen for awhile. Someday soon, I will go out and search for the perfect yellow: the yellow of Michael Jackson's sweater vest.