There is a big storm here today – a blizzard. The snow keeps coming down and piling up, traffic slides and crawls, and on the sidewalks people bend forward and stumble into the horizontal blast of a Canadian winter reminding everyone who’s boss.
I’m feeling a little like the cancer is showing me who’s boss today. Not physically, but by virtue of it kicking the ass of my optimism. The fear that the cancer might have spread to my bones or further colonized my lungs is coming down and piling up. I’m trying to navigate it but I keep sliding and stumbling. I dread the CT scan tomorrow because I dread the results.
I’ve had a stormy day – torrents of tears, bolts of anger, clouds of despair. A darkness of helplessness and a heaviness of frustration and a hail-storm of anxieties. You name it, it came crashing down. Luckily I had a session with my cancer shrink scheduled for today, but the best I could do was plow through a box of Kleenex asking, “Why can’t anyone stop it? Why can’t anyone fix it?” The pathetic futility of my questions only set me further adrift, and he had his work cut out for him just to bring me back to a basic acceptance of the anger and fear.
Of course, I know that the CT scan could possibly tell me that the cancer has stabilized, or even started to shrink. After all, my neck lumps have disappeared. (Is that a glimmer of sunlight I see?)
But like a Pavlovian dog, I’ve been conditioned to expect bad news each and every time they scan my body. Last time, even though my lymph nodes had stabilized, my lungs showed evidence of progression. (Nope, just more storm clouds.)
The coughing and the pain in my ribs make me even more fearful; maybe these are symptoms that the cancer has further spread. Like walking out into a blizzard with nothing but a light jacket and city boots, my trusty tools Denial and Distraction aren’t offering me much protection in these conditions.
There are many hours in the day when I am functioning and managing as though everything is okay – or going to be. But underneath is always a growing sense of foreboding. And also no small amount of anger that I have to feel this way – this afraid – again.
Yes, I know what this is: classic fear of the unknown. Thank-you Dr. Freud. But let’s not go so far as to say it’s “just” fear. I am aware it’s not bad news yet and it may never be bad news, but that’s only my reason trying to wrestle with my emotion. Sometimes emotion wins. This is one of those times.
I’m writing this while I’m still in the darkness. I could have waited until I was in a brighter place, feeling less fragile, but what would be the point of that? In a way, the act of sharing this fear does shrink it, if only a little. If I think about how many people might be out there reading this – how many different portions my fear might be divided into – it somehow feels a little better, a bit more manageable. When I read the comments it’s like they take little chips out of the icy wall of fear, like they help take the cancer down a notch. Like I get a little bit bigger, just a little less vulnerable.
I don’t know what the name is for that unscientific phenomenon, I only know it’s true. It’s a small shelter from the storm, but it’s a shelter nonetheless.