“As life gets longer, awful feels softer
Well, it feels pretty soft to me
And if it takes shit to make bliss
Then I feel pretty blissfully”
– Modest Mouse, “The View”
I chose a cynical quote today to match my mood. I’ve always unintentionally equated acceptance with apathy and I guess that I am now seeing that borne out with my latest revelation. It’s 12pm, and I haven’t done a single thing today except roll myself up in a ball on the couch, emerging to occasionally surf the internet.
In order to understand how I got this way, we’ll have to rewind to yesterday morning. Mentally, I was already logging concern with two physical symptoms: My lower left abdominal pain increasing significantly, and some mentrual-like bleeding occurring many many months post menopause. And then I get the email- “Your test results are ready”. Since all of my other bloodwork had come in last week, I knew what this likely to be my tumor marker results.
I sat myself down at the and gave myself the talk. “They are likely to go up“. I called my husband up for emotional support while I opened them. And of course, I was right. Not only did my CA 19-9 jump 40 points, but my CEA, which has not gone above the normal limits since diagnosis, popped up as well. I processed. Bad things are afoot.
As a distraction, I went out walking with my kids through the trails near my house. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with the perfect temperatures. Going out into that perfect day was like getting served my favorite meal with a dead fly on top of it. There is no way you I going to be able to enjoy the meal, because I can’t get past the fly. It’s spoiled everything.
I suppose that the “dead fly” analogy could also be applied to what it is like to live life fully after being given a terminal diagnosis. Once hope for the future has been taken away, you can never really enjoy it again with full abandon. You can go on the coaster, but you can’t stick your hands in the air and just …let go. The guarantee of landing safely at the bottom has been taken away from you.
I arrived back home, happy to have spent some time outside with my kids, but exhausted- with my ever-present abdominal pain pulsing louder than ever. I head upstairs to use the restroom and out comes a sea of bright red. Now what?
The answer, like most things with cancer, is neither quick nor clear. Even though I’m suddenly bleeding bright red like I am 16 years old again, It’s not enough blood lost to cause health issues. Even though I am in pain, it isn’t enough that it can’t be managed with my current pain prescriptions. I am not running a fever. So this is not an emergency in cancer land. My body is screaming “hey stupid- something is wrong!” And I wait. I wait to talk to a doctor to get to a scan to find out what it is this time.
I send a message to the contact for my tri al medical team asking whether I can move my scans up, and then I am supposed to go back to life-as if-it-will-ever-be-normal until I travel for treatment on Monday.
I’ve done the emotional work. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t scream or wail or really even cry much. But I am still scared. Mostly because what is happening to me has the appearances of something immediately very bad.
My pain is on the left side of where my uterus is located, so if there is cancer there pressing on my uterus or perhaps puncturing through, it will either need to be immediately addressed or it will cause damage sooner, rather than later.
And so I think, like I have to think: Is this gonna be the thing?
Is this the thing that I don’t come back from? Is this the thing that shifts the weight balance and I have to hear the words, “There’s nothing we can do further, it’s time to consider hospice.”
It might be. It also might not be. But I have to wait. I have to wait to get a scan, whether that occurs 2, 3 or 4 weeks in the future (or sooner, if shit really hits the fan and I earn a luxurious hospital vacation).
I haven’t fallen apart. But I am just sad enough and scared enough for a funk. To wonder what the point is of getting up, showering and doing something productive.
The cynic is in me today and she isn’t budging. She feels like a hamster on a wheel. Running and running and running so that she can feel like she’s in control. So she can feel like he’s moving when she’s really just running in place. When she’s really just at the whim of powers greater than himself. Acceptance or Apathy? Does it matter? The ending is still the same.
I’ll close out today’s mood with yet another Modest Mouse lyric. Nobody captures cynisism with words quite like Isaac Brock:
“I said something but I didn’t mean it
Everyone’s life ends but no one ever completes it
Dry or wet ice, they both melt and you’re equally cheated”– Modest Mouse, “The Dark Center of the Universe”