Totally screwed up, I think that’s alright

28 07 2020

First there was the mammogram, and then the ultrasound. Then the second mammo and ultrasound.

Then the ultrasound-guided biopsy.

Then the blood tests.

Then the MRI.

Then more blood tests.

Then the ultrasound, and the mammo, and the MRI-guided biopsy.

Then the COVID test.

Then the pregnancy test (!), the surgery, and the excision of the lump and some lymph nodes.

Tests at every turn. The first few indicated a problem, the first biopsy confirmed it: cancer.

The blood-work checked for receptivity to hormone treatment (yes: good news) and whether I was HER2+, which would have meant chemo (no: good news).

I also paid out-of-pocket for some additional genetic tests, on behalf of my nieces. Sixty-six of sixty-seven were normal; one contained a SNP of uncertain consequence. I passed that information along.

The second set of blood-work were just basic panels: all fine.

The second biopsy indicated no cancer, but not quite right, either. Something to watch.

The COVID test was negative.

The pregnancy test was negative. The surgeon was able to get a clear margin around the tumor; the lymph nodes were clear—so no chemo on their account.

Now, I wait for the typing of the tumor’s genes, the third reason I might need chemo. I have no expectations on the results.

I don’t want to do chemo—I mean, really, who does? It’s good that it’s available and can be effective in lowering the risk of recurrence, but it’s even better not to need it in the first place. I’m already dreading the radiation; add chemo, and, ugh.

(Okay, my response would almost certainly be more than “ugh”; that’s just a placeholder, preferably for a reaction that won’t be necessary.)

But if I need it, I need it, and I’ll bitch and moan and do it.

I realize that in my last two posts, I’ve been all “whatchagonnado?”, as if I were all brave and determined and “chin-up”. I’m not. I’m not hopeful and self-encouraging. And while I admire stoicism, I am manifestly not a stoic.

I am resigned.

I did have a choice—to treat or not to treat—but since I’ve chosen treatment, this is what I have to do, regardless of how I feel or think about it. (I’m still working through both of those, by the way.) That’s it. I’ve chosen to do this.

So I’ll do radiation and hormone treatment, and chemo if necessary, because I want to be cancer-free. I want to get past this, and the only way past is through. That is the most mundane of realities, one to which I can only bow.

That’s it.


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3 responses

28 07 2020
kovalic

Be well.

29 07 2020
jzguzlowski

My Mother’s Optimism

When she was seventy-eight years old
and the angel of death called to her
and told her the vaginal bleeding
that had been starting and stopping
like a crazy menopausal period
was ovarian cancer, she said to him,
“Listen Doctor, I don’t have to tell you
your job. If it’s cancer it’s cancer.
If you got to cut it out, you got to.”

After surgery, in the convalescent home
among the old men crying for their mothers,
and the silent roommates waiting for death,
she called me over to see her wound,
stapled and stitched, fourteen raw inches
from below her breasts to below her navel.
And when I said, “Mom, I don’t want to see it,”

She said, “Johnny, don’t be such a baby.”
Eight months later, at the end of her chemo,
my mother knows why the old men cry.
A few wiry strands of hair on her head,
her hands so weak she can’t hold a cup,
her legs swollen and blotched with blue lesions,
she says, “I’ll get better. After his chemo,
Pauline’s second husband had ten more years.
He was golfing and breaking down doors
when he died of a heart attack at ninety.”

Then my mom’s eyes lock on mine, and she says,
“You know, optimism is a crazy man’s mother.”
And she laughs.

5 08 2020
absurdbeats

Thanks, John K.

And John G: What a lovely, lovely poem. Thank you for this.

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