One Sharp Dame

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I Am Not Good At This

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The Street, by Philip Guston, 1977
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Online Collection

I never expected to still be alive. It has been four and a half years since I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Next week is another CAT scan. It was scheduled before Christmas and I changed it because my lucky imaging lab was getting updated equipment and I was going to have to go to my unlucky imaging lab across town. Anyone who relies on CAT scans will understand what I’m saying.

I’m not sure I’m doing this correctly. I’m not sure I am a very good survivor. I don’t feel like a survivor. I feel like someone waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am not sure I’ve spent my time well. I am unsure about almost everything, to be honest.

I hate my scan weeks. I hate them. The relief from a good scan lasts however long it takes for the next cold or stitch in my side or cramp in my belly or migraine in my head to take hold. In other words, it does not last long.

Sometimes, I think the cancer’s return would almost be a relief.

I have typed those words and deleted them several times. The words are dangerous. They could bring on all manner of horrible pain.

The only person to ever ask me directly how it feels to live in my skin is my therapist. No one asks. Maybe the cancer won’t kill me before I simply collapse under the effort it takes to hold myself together. Once in a blue moon, I will let a little bit slip out. I will be chatting with a friend and before I know it, I’ll drop a turd-sized ball of cancer-addled truth in the conversation. And then I apologize, awkwardly, and change the subject.

The distance between me and the rest of life is insurmountable. Maybe? Like I said, I’m not at all sure I’m doing this right. Maybe the point is I’m not supposed to be good at this. Maybe being good at living in my particular condition is a sign of lunacy. Perhaps not being good at all of this is the surest sign of good mental health I could ever have.

I never expected to be alive, still. I don’t know what to do. Or how to do it. I’m not sure of anything. I hate scan weeks. This is okay.

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2 Comments

  1. I haven’t been in your situation, and I can’t imagine what that must be like. But I have definitely realized from my own experience that people do not want to know if life isn’t butterflies and rainbows. Even when a person has been through something as obviously harrowing and life shattering as you have. It is a shame that we (society) have such discomfort surrounding the experiences that are so uniquely human and that connect us all. Thank you for sharing, and for trusting us to understand and empathize with your anger. What must it do a person’s psyche to have life taken away by a diagnosis and then given back with so many caveats?
    Shaking the proverbial fist at the heavens,
    M.

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