Mortal Coil

Downtown Billings Alley, February, 2020

Nothing feels assured today. Life is impermanent, and we just need to focus on one moment at a time. But that sucks, especially when you’re sitting on the couch trying to forget that you have cancer.

I spent every term in college planning for the next one. I barely remember what I took some semesters, I was so fixated on the goal and the end result of graduating. I would plot out on paper what I needed to take and which semester, and what kind of work schedule I’d need. I spent a lot more of my energy planning for life than I spent actually living it. I did it after college, too. There were reasons for that. Masking emotional trauma and emotional pain with coping and planning can help you get through the day. But it doesn’t make the pain go away for good.

Needless to day, I am not in a good place today.

It has hit me hard today that this is really just the beginning. I’m going to need more treatments and at least one more surgery, and nothing is going to be easy, healthwise, again. It makes me mad and it makes me sad. Even if I’m NED (no evidence of disease) after this surgery, I’ll always be high risk and I’ll always worry about what the next mammogram is going to show. My risk for recurrence is not zero.

I wish I had some really brilliant insight into how that has made me want to live for today and yada yada. But today I’m bummed out about it. I want to be back at work and to rewind the tape and record over this episode.

My breast looks like it was pounded by a meat tenderizer. There is a huge bloody hole that is scabbed and dark. Then there’s the purple crescent leading from the hole out, and the whole thing is purple and blue. If I touch the area of the bruising it hurts, but it hurts more if I touch where the surgery didn’t cut. If I put pressure on my breast at all it sends shock waves through my body. It hurts my heart just to look at it. I can’t put anything topically on it because it’s glued together and I can’t risk opening it up. This is also why I can’t do anything repetitive like shovel or vacuum or wash dishes. I’m hoping in a few days I can sew a few minutes…but that’s pretty repetitive, too, and Jess doesn’t want me to. He told me to get ok with being bored.

Oh my GOD.

There will be nothing sexy or beautiful about going into forced menopause. I’ll be sweaty and grumpy and tired and witchy. I feel like I’ll look like a crone, a shriveled raisin. But this is what is next on the horizon. Years of body adjustment are ahead of me as the very hormones that make me feel female are extracted and eliminated. What will I even feel like mentally through all of this? What will it do to my personality? Not only will my body be chemically forced into menopause but I’ll be taking powerful drugs to chemically end it, and they have side effects.

I’m still searching for the rewind button on the remote.

What is this all about, this human existence thing? I thought I knew. I thought I had a few ideas. But today it just feels like it’s just a lot of suffering. I’m not discounting the love that is received. Perhaps the whole trick is to be able to focus on the good things that are happening vs. the hard things.

I’m not done figuring out how to be human yet, and I wasn’t ready to have a chronic illness.

I met Jess a month before the state of pandemic emergency was declared in this country, and now a state of emergency has been declared in my body. It’s really not fair. We had plans to do some stuff. I’m not willing to let any of it go. I want to go to Mexico City with him, I want to go diving in Hawaii, I want to go back to Europe. I want to travel, and to cook, and spend time just being boring and in love with him.

It doesn’t feel like too much to ask.

Today is full of too many hard things.


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