I have a bag of rocks. I carry it daily, wherever I go. Whenever. Affecting every move I make. My personal baggage.
But, my bag of rocks hasn’t always been with me. (That I know of, anyway.)
Either way, like some guest who’s overstayed her welcome, my bag of rocks must go. Unlike a guest who’s lingered too long, though, I cannot send them packing myself.
These rocks, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, are tumors. Some benign. Some cancerous.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks of tests and follow-up tests. I have been slid into a tube that somehow — even though it sounds like you’re inside a giant fire alarm — can show what’s inside you to the rest of the world, which in and of itself is somewhat unsettling to me. Like many people, I’ve often wondered if I have a soul and, if I do, and knowing what I know about my past mistakes, what it might look like. As the tech slid me into the still-silent tube, I briefly wondered if, if indeed I do have a soul, will the shrieking tube be able to see it? For an equally brief moment, I hoped that either I do not have a soul or that the all-seeing, shrieking tube could not see it. I wouldn’t want my past errors, cruelties and indiscretions to be exposed. I wouldn’t want some unseen radiologist typing into her report that I have a “pelvic mass” (you gotta love medical speak), including a 12 centimeter tumor and various malignancies, and signs of 86 cruelties against my brother from May of 1977.
I’m not being glib. I am, however, trying to maintain my sense of humor and, since I clearly can’t always control which way my mind will race, I’m trying to hold on for the ride and to see both the humor and insights it might bring. Because, for everything this pelvic-mass-cancer thing is, above all, it is terrifying and could easily paralyze me. And what battle has ever been won on the basis of paralysis?
While I feel confident that things will turn out fine, and I feel confident that the doctor feels confident that things will be fine, there is still a lot of uncertainty. And, by the natures of our educational backgrounds and the doctor-patient relationship, I (like any patient) bear the most of the burden of that uncertainty. I have never performed surgery to remove a mass, cancerous or otherwise, and I’m quite certain that that’s a good thing. But the education, steady hands and strong stomach that I do not possess sets the extra uncertainty squarely on my end of the see-saw. And the doctors, well, while some are more socially able than others, and can explain things while offering comfort, there are very few — in part because of the complexity of the human body and the evolution of medicine — who can single-handedly wrestle a medical demon to the ground to allow us patients to squarely look it in the face, all while clearly explaining that demon and comforting us. Add health insurance companies and medical malpractice insurance into this equation and it feels like chaos.
So, if my humor is extra quirky, silly, or (gasp) perhaps even a tad inappropriate, or if I seem glib, I’m just preserving my sanity and trying to make sense of facing a disease that no one really expects. Or is prepared for. And, frankly, sometimes you can find the darnedest little piece of truth, self-awareness, comfort or understanding by poking fun at something as dark and frightening as cancer. I have, as well as finding small bits of sanity in the midst of this unexpected roller coaster.
I will confess, however, that I will not mind banishing my bag of rocks. Carrying two evenly packed and somewhat heavy bags of groceries is really my preferred weight-bearing exercise — not hauling rocks.
November update: My bag of rocks was banished 98% successfully, however, leaving behind a diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer … and a whole lot of work left to do.
Time to start Walking Faster in Philly!