Monday, October 3, 2011

Prometheus Unbound: Part III: Confronting the Eagle

At this point in the story, I find that I have to go back through my medical records to sort out the timeline and, in doing so, I am surprised to read that this all took place not three years ago but four years ago. I don't want to give away the ending but you've probably already guessed that I didn't die. This isn't being "ghost written" as my friend, Melissa, hilariously suggested. Nor is it being publish posthumously. No. Based on the absurd amount of laundry that's awaiting me this morning, I am very much alive. Or, my personal circle of hell involves a never diminishing pile of laundry making it so similar to my life that one need hardly worry about making a distinction. Either way, the reason why I was confused about the dates will become clear at a later time.

The wording of the original report reads something like this: "...two echogenic foci in right lobe of liver measuring approximately 7mm in size...differential consideration would include a hemangioma but given the history of INRTAT, malignancy cannot be strictly excluded..."

Two weeks and one failed CT scan after getting the call from my GP, I went for an MRI. Then I went to Starbucks. Then I went home and waited.

And waited.

The week or so that I waited to get the results was awful. I felt nauseated most of the time. Cried constantly. Spent hours playing one macabre scenario after another in my head. And decorated the house for Christmas.

I have two very distinct memories of this time. In the first, I am struggling through the haze of my anxiety to decorate the Christmas tree with the kids. The carols are playing and we're having a generally good time and I'm even kind of forgetting that I'm waiting for a call from my doctor. Except that I don't really. I understand that liver cancer is a bad one. The survival rate is low and most people diagnosed with it are dead inside of a year. These are the exact thoughts I'm having and I wonder if this is the last time I'm going to do this. I look at my kids and wonder if this is the year that they'll remember as their last Christmas with their mother. I suddenly realize that my youngest child, who is bouncing excitedly around the room, is still much too young to preserve any memories of this day. I feel like I've eaten a bag of stones and I think I might pass out.

In my second memory of this week I am at a meeting of my book club. I don't want to be there but I think it might serve as a distraction. Only one person in attendance is aware of what's happening with me. In general, I've kept it to myself. The conversation turns to a mutual friend of some of the other members. A woman who has died of cancer in the not too distant past. The woman who knows my situation turns to me and says pointedly, "It is such a terrible story. She was so young and so angry about dying. She wasn't ready to die. She never came to peace with it. Not even at the very end." I don't know how I managed to sit absolutely still with a hundred-yard stare on my face until the meeting ended but I did. Then I drove home and cried for 2 hours. Thor still cannot mention the woman's name without getting angry.

It's funny but all these years later, I cannot recall getting the phone call. You'd think I would remember the call that told me that I didn't have cancer. But I don't. At all. Probably because, that call never came. The call that I got went more like this:

"So, it doesn't LOOK like cancer, for sure. In fact, it looks like not-cancer. But, we just can't be sure. And we can't do a biopsy. Because if it's not-cancer and we cut it, you could bleed to death. So what we do is we follow it. If it gets bigger - probably cancer. If it doesn't change - probably not. Okay? So we'll check it again in 6 months and see what it does."

Gobsmacked. I had been waiting for one of two answers. This was a third possibility that I had never even considered. SIX months? Six months of no answers? Of not knowing? Of panic attacks and crying jags and uncertainty and a gut full of stones and a constant bitter taste in my mouth? Six months of monitoring every inch of my body for some sign of cancer?

I spent the next several days trying to figure out how in the name of all that was good I was going to get through the next six more months of this agony. I had put major portions of my life on hold for the past month or so while all of this had been transpiring with the idea that at the end of it I would either pick things up again and proceed in good health and high spirits, or, not. How could I do all of the things I needed to do everyday for the next six months when I was in a constant state of inner, and often outer, turmoil?

Well, I couldn't.

So, I didn't.

Next: S#ck It, Eagle

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