Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Shortcuts

I somewhere along this journey found a backbone. I am saying things to people I used to just think in my head. I feel more authentically myself. You know, that way of being that needs no apology and you know the other person recognizes you're speaking your truth? It doesn't even feel scary. And I don't feel like a bitch, either. Or unkind. Just speaking from my heart. Who knew it was possible?

And at the same time I am quieter than I was before.

What a paradox.

Then there's the angrier, weepier bit, too. That feels shitty. I told someone this week that I am trying to honour my journey through this instead of skirting around it. It's much harder to do. Short cuts will come back to bite me in the butt so I won't go there as much as I sometimes wish I didn't know that there are no lasting short cuts on the journey.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The One I Will Never Get Back

I'm almost to the entrance to the store when I hear someone call out my name. I turn to see a mini van pulled right up to the curb beside me. She smiles as I lean in her window to say hi. She has warmth in her eyes and a bright, bright spirit.

She is the oncologist I was assigned to before the mix up was discovered. We know one another from time spent volunteering together in a community organization plus she was my doctor many years ago when she practised in a different Specialty. I'd been comforted knowing she was going to help me through my cancer journey because she is an incredible listener and advocate for her patients.

She talks about how she felt when my name came across her desk and how glad she is that I don't have to see her now. As I talk about how the experience has impacted me I am unprepared for the emotions that rise up within me, making talking difficult. The grief feels like it's radiating up from my bones and seeping out of my pores. "What's the matter with me?" I think to myself.

Tears well up as I tell her that I am changed because of the experience - for the better.  I can't talk for the tears. Later, when I'm mulling our conversation over, so confused by the grief, I realize what I feel like I'm grieving for is the old me. The one I will never get back.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Good Mother

"I'm surprised you're not cleaning the house."

I look up at youngest son, who has poked his head in my office, as I have this artis's music blaring from my phone.

I turn the sound down and look at him quizzically. He then reminds me that I used to listen to that artist's music as I cleaned house. He tells me to ask his sister, he bets she'd remember it, too.

We don't have a stereo in our house any more and I can't remember the last time I listened to music as I cleaned. I dimly remember that I ever did.

He's goes back to sorting and cleaning out his room, getting ready to go back to university. Tomorrow - containers of childhood things are on his list of things to sort through. He's ready to let go of things from his past.

I sit there and think back. I know it says in the promises that we will not regret the past but there are memories that haunt me still about my behaviour in this lad's childhood. Probably the hardest is that I believe that the bulk of the hard inner work is ahead of him, yet.  Damn, that's painful work. Several years ago I committed out loud to my adult kids that I would do whatever they needed from me when that time came for them.

There was a time when only daughter cut off all communication with me and she told me recently that had I not changed, that phone call letting me know not to call or email her, would have been the last one she made to me.

Someone I deeply respect in the program has talked again lately of how the program is one of suggestions but that there are over 50 instances in the Big Book of the word 'must'. I've had a note stuck in my book for a long time to try and find them. I spent some time this weekend doing that. I haven't found them all yet but the first one I found is on page 14 and it says
"I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all."
It's a god good reminder especially as this is the song I was listening to:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Our Separate Ways

I'm sliding on a black wool coat on and shrugging it up over my shoulders when I notice her across the store flicking through a sale rack of blouses. I haven't seen her in years and while we were not much more than acquaintances when we were neighbours, I still feel the urge to cross the floor and say "hi". Most of the time I duck out when I see people I know in stores as I find making small talk difficult. It's that time of year when people ask, "How was your summer?" and I've been avoiding people lately, not wanting to talk about the life changing events that have filled my own.

I take my time deciding what to do next. I turn this way and that as I look at my reflection in the mirror.  The coat hangs beautifully and fits like a glove. But I didn't really come in here to buy a coat, I only came in to browse, so I take off the coat and hang it back up.

I call her name and she looks up. When she recognizes me she has a warm smile that stretches to her eyes. There's an awkward moment after she makes a move to hug me and I don't catch her body language in time. Ever gracious, she starts the conversation with asking about my summer. I skirt around reality and make small talk.

I ask about her kids. As she tells me about their lives I remember a promise I'd made to myself several years ago. A promise of what I'd tell her, this long ago neighbour of mine, if I ever saw her again.

It seems like a lifetime ago that Only Daughter babysat for her when she had one child and one on the way. It was a lifetime ago as her kids - three in total - are all teenagers now. She was a busy career woman with a world view vastly different than my own back then. Or at least held opinions that I didn't share.

We were neighbours during a lengthy time (my whole parenting journey - to be exact) when I failed to see my children as separate from me. I was so sure that my way was the only way to view the world and that they would follow along behind me like ducks in a row. I really couldn't conceive of anything else nor did I give them room to. No wonder I felt threatened by her. No wonder my kids eventually pushed back in ways that stunned me. They had to. For their own survival. Thank God they did.

The memory flits through my mind and I steady myself with a hand on the clothes rack. What I'm going to tell her is no longer hard for me to admit although it was a  painful birthing process to get here. I don't know who needs to hear it most. Me. Or her. I just know I need to say it out loud.

"Thank you for what you did to affirm my daughter in who she was as a person. That it was possible for her to have hopes and dreams of her own, separate from me. That she didn't have to feel guilty for that. I couldn't appreciate it back then. I didn't know how. But now I realize the gift you gave her. Thank you."

What I don't say is that I imagine that lone conversation we had one night as the three of us - me, my daughter and her - stood on her front step, was most likely a lifeline for my daughter. Or maybe it was for me. One of those moments when someone says something and a little crack appears in long held, rigidly gripped beliefs and something shifts inside and there's no going back. Her words haunted me for years. Initially I felt so angry. Like she was polluting my daughter and our relationship. It made me tighten my parenting grip.

She looks a little startled at my words. But we talk then. Really talk. When it's time to go she thanks me for calling her name. Before we turn to go our separate ways I reach towards her and we embrace.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's All Unknown

I sat around my very own blue and orange flickering camp fire tonight. I had gathered wood from under our waving-high-in-the-sky Spruce Tree whose single trunk splits into two trees somewhere over my head. Under its boughs we stack our firewood. I crumpled some paper, added the wood and after a strike of the match on the box I had my very own camp fire to sit and reflect by. It was a hot today - perhaps our last hot day of the season - and I'd decided earlier that I was going to treat myself to a sit by the fire before the day ended. It's one of my favourite things to do.  Time to think and not think.

My mind wandered and I remembered a conversation with a friend from a few months ago. I was listing all the medical tests ahead of me and she seemed to be brushing off my worry.  I felt self conscious about having spoken and dropped the subject. Tonight, as I thought about it, I was able to put my finger on what was underneath my listing. I wish I could have said, "I'm scared of the unknowns."

And as quickly as that thought surfaced another quickly followed, "It's all unknown."

I feel unable to wrap life/God up in any kind of package these days. Can't seem to come to any kind of conclusion. It feels like the first time in my life where I can honestly say, "I don't know."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What It Looks Like

"The person in front of you is always more important than the person on the phone."
I need to be told things like this and she says it to me after I tell her that I have a friend visiting for the evening and our overseas phone conversation has lasted twenty minutes already. I'd been panicking inside as my friend walked around our yard while I sat at the fire pit and chatted. I couldn't figure out what was the right thing to do? After all, we'd arranged to chat at this time due to the time difference between her country and mine. Then my friend showed up. Once my overseas friend told me her perspective on the right order of things I was able to end the conversation without guilt and turn my attention to the person in front of me.

Her comment shone a light on my lack of ease when it comes to navigating social etiquettes.

I tend to be blunt and ungainly in social situations. It's taken years of work to lessen the panic that being in social situations evoke in me. Simple things like the rules of introducing people to one another or how to bow out of a conversation graciously - I don't do well. In my own home it takes work for me to remember to say excuse me instead of pushing past Dearest One. To wait my turn. To not change the subject on a dime. It's makes me feel vulnerable to admit all that. I want to chalk it up to the Asperger -ish symptoms most of my family exhibits or the self centredness that comes with being an alcoholic. I want to tell myself I should be further along the path than I am.

Yet here I am. And I can learn and change.

My friend made that comment to me a year ago. I have used it as a marker in my daily life since then. It's helped me ignore a ringing phone at work when a client is sitting across the desk from me. I've practised listening without speaking. I've reminded myself during conversations that it is polite to ask how the other person is doing instead of making it all about me. I sometimes wonder if people cringe when they run into me in case I'm one of those "can't get away from, won't shut up kind of people."

And I've learned - the hard way - that what things look like on the surface are not always the way they are.

I have a thing about not using/looking at a cell phone while in a restaurant. I feel so strongly about it that I once told someone once that they could choose to spend time with me or with their cell phone but it really was rude to ignore the person in front of them for the piddly assed messages on their phone.

Nothing like a pot calling the kettle black.

I've often looked at people in restaurants - couples especially - and wondered what's wrong with their relationship that their cell phone would trump their lover. I've had conversations in my head - jumping to conclusions about their whole relationship based on that one action.

And then came this day. Dearest One and I found ourselves busy with our cell phones in the aftershock of the appointment - too numb to talk because the tears were so close to the surface. I'd already gave my food order to the waitress with tears threatening to spill over. Dearest One and I looked at each other and found there were no words. Everything was happening so fast and we were spinning.

So we turned to our phones to let friends know what the next step was going to look like. I kept saying the word mastectomy to myself in my head and I looked up at Dearest One and apologized for being so rude as to be on my cell phone in a restaurant in front of him. We cut each other some slack.

I send a text to my friend who told me the person in front of me was more important than the person on the phone.

And as I pushed the send button on my phone I couldn't help but wonder if someone was watching us and jumping to conclusions about me and my lover.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Towards A Window Of Light

I'm sorting through a mound of papers in my office - shredding bank statements and saving quotes I've scribbled on scraps of paper. Four garbage bags later I turn to tackle my bookcase. As I sort books into keep and give away piles I rescue my journal from its spot on top of a stack of books ready to tip over.

I've kept journals for a good chunk of my adult life - I started with spiral bound notepads and eventually graduated to magnetized flip cover ones that are pleasing to the eye and touch. So pleasing that I can't help caressing the journal's cover as I try to remember the last time I wrote in it. I flip it open to the last time I wrote and read this:

"The other day a picture popped into my head of fear as a giant boulder I was trying to push out of the way.  No matter that I could walk around it, I was spending all my energy trying to push it."

It's from October of last year, in the middle of a pity party entry that ends with " times I feel like it's (accomplishing tasks) all pointing to a 'what are you going to do now?' moment of my life."

That question is the same one I've been asking myself in light of these past few weeks. I felt so jolted when they told me I had cancer and then got another jolt when they caught their mistake that I think it would only be natural to ask "What are you going to do now?"

A few months ago, without any memory of that journal entry, I visualized my fear as being a tiny black rock. Not only did I see it as a tiny black rock but in my mind I held it in an open hand instead of in a clenched fist.

As I sorted my office I gathered some of my hope collection of things to place in plain sight on my desk. A desk I can now see the top of as opposed to the little cranny that was visible at morning's start. I place a green mug with the word hope engraved on it where I can reach for one of my nifty coloured gel pens nestled in its innards. An angel of hope figurine sits under my desk lamp - in front of a painting a friend's daughter did years ago of a flower stretching towards a window of light.

It's taken me a long time to be okay with the reality that hope and fear sit side by side within me. And longer to be okay with not having a ready answer, or any, for that matter, to every question that comes to my mind.

But God, I'm glad to have a chance to ponder it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Niggling Uncertainty

We're both watching the surgeon's face as he reads the MRI report to himself, lips moving, but no sound coming out. When his lips stop moving while his eyes continue to scan the computer screen we both think to ourselves, "Oh, shit, here we go again."

He motions for us to come read the screen with him. "intermediate probability of malignancy." There's a different lump in question now. Its placement is close enough to the old one that afterwards Dearest One and I hope the radiologist had a dyslexic moment and juxtaposed its placement which would then make both lumps the same one.

One can always hope. But, damn the uncertainty. It niggles.

I can't take facing another biopsy at the moment and our surgeon is going on holidays so we've agreed to meet next month to discuss what comes next. There's still an outside chance that the head of radiology will rule out a possible malignancy without a biopsy before then.

I'm at a loss as to how to process this new bit of information. I don't know if I've really grasped through these past few weeks that the only certain thing is uncertainty but I do feel as if my  grip  has lessened. Tonight it feels like more of a 'what's the point' grip than actual freedom. Perhaps that will change.

In the meantime I am going to enjoy the last ten days of my summer vacation. It's the first stretch in months where there isn't one single medical appointment written on my calendar.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jack Hammer Vibrations

I'm laying face down on the MRI table and feel the technician's hand on my arm as the bed starts to move backwards. Every few seconds she lifts her hand and then places it firmly on my arm again as she guides me into the tunnel. I offer up a silent prayer of thanks for how comforting her touch is. Within seconds the jack hammer like sounds of the MRI machine begin. Within myself I'm vibrating with anger and have been since I woke up this morning.

Feeling just plain pissy with the world, I know the feeling will pass through if I only acknowledge its presence. It's not a permanent feeling, I know, but it sure is a powerful one.

I lay there and try to pray. I watch as my mind wanders, taking a once around the block look at the past two weeks. I take shallow breaths as instructed and focus on my breathing. Every so often they interrupt the jack hammer to let me know how many more minutes until I'm done. Oh, I'm done all right.

Finally they roll me back out again. The technician fastens my medic alert bracelet back on my arm and I make my way past the room full of people clutching my gown in front of me.

I'm still feeling angry as I make my way a few minutes later to the lab to get blood drawn in order to be tested for the breast cancer gene. There is a strong family history of the disease in first degree relatives and I'm ready to know if I'm a carrier. Enough of this shit already. I sit down in the only empty chair in the lab and look up at the number on the wall. 18. I look at the number in my hand. 43. I know I don't have the patience to wait so I give my number to a young mom carrying in a baby and leave. Tomorrow is another day. I'm not totally comfortable with my anger because I feel like I am leaving angry energy in my wake much like the after effects of passing someone wearing strong perfume.

I get home from the hospital to find a voice message from my doctor on my phone. I feel fed up to here with doctors. I listen as she asks how my weekend was, how am I doing. I hear a wistful hope in her voice and I bristle. I cannot bring myself to be okay so that she feels better. She talks about the next steps and how the higher ups are dealing with the confusion surrounding my misdiagnosis. She refers to my appointment tomorrow with the surgeon that hopefully will bring some closure.

I know my doctor doesn't deserve to bear the brunt of my anger so I decide not to return her phone call. Restraint of tongue and pain pen flashes through my mind and I hang up the phone after her message is finished.

I know part of my anger is rooted in fear. The MRI which is supposed to confirm there is no cancer could very well find it somewhere else. I'm jumping ahead of today into tomorrow's unknown territory and it feels like reining in a galloping horse to let today's troubles be enough in themselves.

Some food. Some sleep. Some company. Hours later the anger dissipates. Jack hammers quiet both inside and out. Relief.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

To Whom Would We Go?

" And the angel of the LORD came again a second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you."  ~ today's Mass reading

I'm standing as the above scripture is read with tears streaming down my face. I've been crying since the opening song and the altar boys are looking my way with furrowed brows and then glancing over at their dad who is trying, via hand signals, to get them to stop staring at me. Their eyes dart between us like they're following a ping pong game while I bend down to grab another tissue and blow my nose. When you're barely a dozen people in total at church it's hard to blow one's nose discreetly.

An image of the bumper sticker "Honk if you love Jesus" flashes through my mind and I wish for a moment that I had one I could raise just high enough for the boys to see as an explanation for my behaviour.  The thought almost takes me into that panicky state where laughter and sobs do the same job.

You have no idea how relieved I am that my sense of humour is surfacing. I remember once going so long without laughter that it sounded like breaking shards of glass in my ears when I finally laughed.

I came to church extra early to sit in the quiet, to ready the altar, to go over the scripture readings. Normally I am the lector every Sunday. I slung my purse in the pew and reached for the missal. I didn't read very far when an involuntary sharp intake of breath escaped my lips. Tears sprang up as I read the above scripture and I knew I just couldn't read it out loud today. While I am comfortable with my own tears, especially in response to scripture, it would be unkind to others for me to stand there trying to proclaim God's word while weeping uncontrollably.

As a handful of women came into the sanctuary they stopped to talk with me and graciously stepped in to take my place.

 Eventually my tears subsided and I arose and ate.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Like A Galloping Runaway Horse

"That's the best news I've heard in a long time."

"I burst into tears when I read your news.

I feel numb as I hear and read the reaction of others to my news. Numb. They whoop and holler and tell me what a miracle it is. I feel blank. And then I feel guilty that I feel blank. The only thing I've been able to do today is cry. Feel numb. Cry. Wash. Repeat. All day long.

The last 24 hours is such a blur that when I call a friend tonight to tell her the news she tells me we talked about it last night. I have no memory of it. The last time I felt like this I was in the midst of a nervous  breakdown. That time I cried for six months straight.

Late this afternoon the surgeon calls to set up a time next week for us to meet in person. He wants to hear what I need to move forward. I'd like my emotions back please. I'd like to feel joy. I tell him I feel guilty that I feel so numb. He assures me that what I'm experiencing is normal and that my feelings will slowly surface again. He tells me to rest as much as possible this weekend.

After we'd left his office the other day, Dearest One told me  that he was sure the surgeon was a man of faith. He just had that feeling. Whatever was my inner reaction at the time (which is a whole other post in itself.)

Today I give the surgeon an opening to affirm Dearest One's assertion. He does.

In doing so our conversation shifts.

And  immediately I give myself enough rope to hang myself for in a nano second I hear myself doing what I told you I had no stomach to hear last night. I tell him what I think God revealed to him in the whole thing. How a conversation he had with my medical specialist earlier in the day yesterday now made him so aware and more knowledgeable about my particular health issues. That maybe he'll come across a patient that has the symptoms of it and you know - change their life!!  I hear myself as I say the words like I'm a bystander in my own conversation. I remind myself of a galloping runaway horse. Man, they're hard to rein in. I think to myself shut the fuck up already.

But I don't. I wanted to finish the thought - it was after all - so brilliant. Eventually my voice trails off like I've run out of steam and I lamely tell him I have no idea what will come of it for him. But it's too late. I've already vomited my ego all over his story. You know. The story only he gets to tell. From within himself. From that place no other person can enter. You can only listen to it - you can't write it for someone else. And whatever them I thought I was different from last night gets shot to pieces and once again I am reminded I am a part of not apart from.

And so the story continues.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

And Yet

You know how I wrote about Dearest One just wanting our old life back?

Today he got his wish. Kind of. If this past week has not changed me for the better then God help me. I am feeling incredibly humbled tonight. There is no going back to our old life but.....

Late this afternoon my family doctor called to tell me that they had sent my biopsy samples to city far away to be tested for hormone receptors. The pathologist there looked at my slides and declared there are no cancer cells in them. None.

The pathologist here thinks she may have been looking at someone else's slides and marked down those results on my report by mistake.

I was scheduled for a mastectomy next Wednesday.

They are sending everything to a third pathologist to make sure there is no cancer. I am having a breast MRI on Monday to doubly make sure. I feel like I stepped off a merry go round and am still spinning.

Please offer up a prayer for that pathologist who got it so wrong. My doctor said when she talked to her that she was in near tears. Distraught. Some may snarkily say 'and well she should be'. But snarky is so far removed from where I want to live my life from. At this moment I can't even be angry with her. I don't have the energy and even if I did, what would that do? Be angry for me if you must but then look in the mirror at how human and flawed you are and remember the many who have been wounded by your humanity. Maybe another day I will be angry. Had I lost my breast I certainly would be. For a time. And yet. If I hold anyone's humanity against them then I must also hold my own against myself. And that has never increased my love and compassion for my fellow human being or for myself.

And for the woman who may think she is cancer free and is not. Please say a prayer for her, too. She will get the opposite shock that I received today. Her joy will turn to mourning. I cannot imagine being in her place.

We so like to make sense of things. Of wrapping life up in neat tidy boxes. Friends are already posting things on my social networking page about how prayer and faith work miracles. Please. I don't dispute what God can do - and I can totally believe those pathology slides of mine could have been changed by the hand of God in transit - but I tread so carefully when it comes to thinking I know what God did or did not do. Or what affect the prayers of many made. As if I could ever know just how the Great Mystery that I call God works and wills His way through my life. I feel so humbled that my journey is taking this turn. It increases my belief that I know nothing.

I've spent the past two days with one of my closest friends who had her own diagnosis of breast cancer recently. I went with her to a medical appointment and she came with me to my own. We've travelled 1000 miles in two days. She has a multitude of people praying for her. She has incredible faith. She still has cancer. She still is going to lose a breast. I felt guilty telling her my good news. Who wouldn't yearn for their own miracle in return?

The other day while I was sitting in the surgeon's office I watched the traffic going by below and when my shakes stopped so instantly I looked at a blue pick up truck winding its way down the street and asked God if the driver had anyone praying for them and I lifted that stranger up in prayer for whatever their needs may have been.

I want to jump for joy and cry deep gulping tears at the same time. I hope I never forget how I feel tonight.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Someone Somewhere

We're sitting in the surgeon's office waiting for him to come in and I'm shaking uncontrollably. Not unlike the shakes you get after giving birth, it happens to me when I am under extreme stress. Out of the blue the shaking stops. Completely. Dearest One looks at me and asks what made the difference. "Someone, somewhere, prayed for me," I tell him.  I am grateful.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What Comes Next

"What church do you go to?" she asks me as she's hanging up her clothes in my closet.

"We don't go to church."


What kind of question is that I wonder to myself, glad that I stifled the urge moments before to ask her if she had a boyfriend or if she thought Donny Osmond was cute. We'd picked her up at the airport less than half an hour ago, paired up as exchange students, and she is the first of us to dare fly across the country to be a guest in my home.

She furrows her brow at my answer and I worry that she'll want to go home immediately. Or that she'll cry. She bites her lip and we go out to the kitchen to get a snack. Soon we find out that we'd recently celebrated our 16th birthdays mere days apart and that gets us moving towards common ground. Relief. Before we know it,  it's my turn to get on a plane and travel eastward to her house.

On her turf I listen to her parents yelling at each in Italian as if they were across the hallway instead of across the table. It's the first time I've heard anyone raise their voice so matter of factly and without anger. I wonder what an argument would sound like. How many decibels would their voices rise? Her parents want to know if we have outhouses in our part of the country. Do we have running water? I laugh. Seriously? I think about telling them we have outhouses only in our churches but I don't.

One day we go to the neighbourhood restaurant and buy country chicken for supper. As we wait for her dad to come back to the car I notice the St. Christopher medal on the dash of the car. I ask my friend what it is and she tells me he is the Patron Saint of Travellers. She says it without apology and I think to myself that is some kind of weird shit to believe.

Sunday comes and that means it's time to go to church. The last time I was in a church I was 8 years old. We sit near the middle of the church but I sit at the end of the pew. I've always liked an exit route.  I look around the cavernous building. It's full of light and the roof is so far away I bet we'd look like ants if I was a fly on the ceiling.The priest starts to talk and I tune him out - daydreaming as I look around me at the stone walls and the stained glass windows. I'm not paying one iota of attention when suddenly the woman in front of me turns around, smiles, and extends her hand sayinig, "Peace of Christ be with you." I turn a bright shade of red and clumsily shake her hand. I look at my friend and raise my eyebrows. She thrusts her own hand towards me and I hastily shake it as if I'm afraid that whatever she has is catching.

For the next few minutes I am bombarded with people shaking my hand and smiling at me and I want to shrink down into nothingness. Weird shit all over again. Relief floods over me when everyone turns around and sits down. For the rest of the service I feel a little on edge because I don't know the way it works and I hate not knowing what comes next. I never again go into a Catholic Church without reminding myself that at some point a stranger is going to thrust their hand in my direction. I don't know why they will but I determine that I'll never get caught off guard again. It means I have to pay attention.


I come into the coolness of the church and go about setting up the altar, carefully placing the cloths in the right order on top of the chalice. The rituals soothe my nerves and I'm glad because I've  been feeling agitated all morning. Full of fear.  I've run to the starting line of 'this is going to kill me' and my  mind has raced around the track in that vein for much of the day. When the priest comes in I go to him and tell him the results of my biopsy. He grips my arm and whispers in my ear with an urgency in his voice, "God bless you." I hear echoes of "He will. He will" ring in my ears.

We gather around the altar for the Lord's prayer as is our custom in our tiny church in the boon docks. Nearly 35 years have passed since that day of embarrassing hand shakes. My friend has since left her faith and I find myself having embraced it fully. I am standing directly in  front of the altar and when the priest lifts his eyes and says "May the peace of the Lord be with you always." His eyes meet mine as he says it and I breathe deeply, soaking it in. As I extend my hand to those around me I want more than anything to feel Christ's peace.

"I want our old life back." Dearest One is standing in the bathroom doorway, shirtless save for a St. Christopher medal hanging around his neck. I poke him gently on the tip of his nose and say, "There is no difference between this life and the other one." He looks at me and says, "You know, that other one. The one we had some control over. The one before last Thursday." I press the St. Christopher medal into his chest like I'm pushing a telephone number and smile at him. "That semblance of control , was an illusion."

As I say it I look at St. Christopher and think about the journey we are on and offer up a silent prayer for travelling mercies. Weird shit, indeed.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Dreaming Myself Awake

I wake with a start from a dream and it takes a few seconds to figure out where I am. It felt like it was a split second between dream and reality and once I realize I'm in reality, I think about the dream and laugh, so, so glad it was only a dream. In it I kept getting dressed for a banquet in fancy clothes and every single time I came out of the dressing room I had an immediate Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. Oh, the looks of horror on people's faces! No matter how many times I tried to get ready the same side of my top disappeared.


I'm getting dressed (and my clothing stays put) when Dearest One asks if I want him to come along with me to my doctor's appointment. I tell him that no, this is a routine appointment, taking no more than five minutes. If it was the one we are hoping never comes - the one that starts with a phone call telling us we need to come talk with the doctor about test results -  then absolutely, yes, I would want him there.  The possibility of that phone call is a week away at least so I head to town on my own.


I'm sitting in the doctor's office and chatting away with him about not getting answers to my weight loss. His beeper goes off and he presses a button to ignore it and we keep on talking. He is an attentive listener, he reveals his humanity to me and I appreciate that about him. His eyes have a kindness in them that seems to come from deep places. We agree on a game plan even though none of my lab work fits with the need for it, but hey, we'll give it a try.  He'll see me in three months and go from there. I get up and am satisfied with the visit. It's gone as I thought it would. I tuck the prescription in my purse and head out the door.

I am a few steps out of his office when I turn around and pop my head in the doorway and say to him, "I realize people are getting shitty news every day and I'm not one of them. As much as my curious mind hates not knowing the reason why I'm losing weight, considering the alternative, I can live with it." He tells me how many people get so angry with him when he tells them that he has no answers for why they are experiencing health issues. He seems relieved I'm not one of them.

I make my way to his receptionist's desk to make the follow up appointment. She's not there and I feel impatient. I hesitate, trying to decide if I'll wait for her or just phone later. She's really hard to get on the phone and I feel more impatient at the thought of going that route so I decide to wait.

We're in the middle of getting that appointment settled when the doctor comes out and says, "Can I see you for a minute?" I figure he's thought of some other solution, has had a brain wave and I eagerly pick up my purse and follow him back into his office.

He tells me the beeper had been from my family doctor and he had just gotten off the phone with her.

"Unfortunately I have to tell you the biopsy came back malignant."

I look out the window and say, "Fuck."

He turns his computer screen so I can see it and reads me the pathology report.

We talk. There are many good things in the report. Hopeful things. It's still not as shitty as it could be. Shitty, yes. But not shittier.
Although I really believe only the person going through it gets to say that. Last night someone told me very matter of factly how it could be so much worse and proceeded to tell me of her friend who had it so much worse than me. Something wilted inside me as I listened. Disappointed at how hard it is to stand with someone in their pain, for all of us, myself included. Reminded at how words can create walls or bring healing. And even though it was true, her friend does have it so much worse than me,  I still wanted to slam down the phone again and again as if I was beating her into silence with it. 
He walks me out to the exit asking if I need to call someone, if I am okay to drive. I tell him I will go home and have a good cry, that I will call someone if I can't drive home safely.

I get in my car and drive directly to my family doctor's office. Relieved to see each other, we talk and I remind her what I said last week - that if this lump turned out to be cancer then the weight loss would be a blessing because it wouldn't have been found without the diagnostic testing they'd done for the weight loss. We talk about the hopeful things in the report, about what to expect next. I stand to go and reach towards her and we hug.

I get to my car and look at my phone. My heart sinks when I see there is a message from Dearest One saying 'urgent, call me'. Seeing those words tells me he listened to the phone message from our family doctor saying exactly what I'd said earlier that morning - I need to talk to you about test results. It's not supposed to be like this. I'm not supposed to be confirming this news on the phone. We're supposed to be sitting side by side in the doctor's office. I remember a conversation I'd had with a close friend just last week where she reminded me that I was trying to control what I couldn't. Damn.


I'm driving home and remember my dream. I gasp as I realize the same side of my top disappeared in my dream as the side that has cancer in it. I knew before I knew.