Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Failure of the Day: The Most Time-Consuming Clock

Time passes however it damn well chooses. There are weeks that are over before you can finish your Coke, and weeks that you don’t notice and that don’t notice you—time is a stranger; not even eye contact as you pass each other on the sidewalk.

Then there are weeks like this, Wednesday to Wednesday, Chris working long hours, and no on else knows what I’m waiting for. You don’t invite other people into this kind of time—at least I don’t. Maybe that’s a social misunderstanding on my part but it seems discourteous at best to drag people into your drama before you even know for sure if it exists. I limit the causalities.

One thing I’ve decided: if it’s cancer, I have to re-write my book as a memoir—the story wouldn’t be believable as fiction anymore. It’s too much. And I find myself getting comfortable with cancer—I’m warming right up to it. In a way it’s relaxing; to return to being the sick girl is just so easy, so familiar. It’s alluring. I still haven’t quite figured out who I am if I’m not the sick girl, so being her again would solve that problem at least.

But a week is a long time to spend on an identity cusp. I don’t actually expect it to be cancer; the odds as I understand them are in my favor. In my 20s of course, no matter how the odds were split, it was inevitable that I would find myself in the smaller wedge of pie. I was pretty unlikely. But a decade of outright healthfulness like the one I’ve just had makes one feel a good bit more insulated. “Anything can happen—but it probably won’t” sums up the uneasy peace I made with my catastrophic history and what it means for my remarkably still not catastrophic present.

Still, though, a long week. And a long day; they are supposed to call today but it’s 3 PM and so far, nothing.

6 PM UPDATE: *AH-OOOO-GAH* Doctor just called and sounded the all-clear. Looks like I'm still more likely than not.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Failure of the Day: Meet the New Boss

I had to have my left breast biopsied today. The doctor emphasized that the dense area of tissue they see on my mammogram and ultrasound is not the kind of thing that usually turns out to be cancer, which I appreciated and am forcing myself to stay focused on.

I watched them do the biopsy on the monitor; I saw the needle clip off each of the six tissue samples they took from the sort of white-ish blobby thing on the digital screen, which of course was not on the digital screen at all but very near my left armpit. And I thought: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I know about white blobby things on high-tech x-ray; I first saw the one in my brain coming up on 18 years ago--now it's almost old enough to vote. And it sure as shit was the boss of me for most of those 18 years, though much less so lately.

It was an emotional day; I was more worked up than I thought was warranted but there wasn't anything I could do about that. I called in sick to work and waited to call Chris until I could say the word "biopsy" out loud without choking up. And it's frustrating because I'm not frightened and I wasn't frightened for a moment during the procedure or after it, but I was behaving as though I were, and I don't really know why. I recognized the feeling of dread in the fist of my stomach, it came and went as I wandered around downtown for five straight hours, trying to make myself exhausted and distracted. But I never did get around to feeling afraid.

It was also a bit liberating; I'm pretty responsible these days what with the big corporate job, husband, nice apartment, low cholesterol counts, and such. Today I didn't have to do anything at all; my only task was to keep myself entertained. That really was the best and right thing for me to do, so I dawdled in Macy's, bought tights at Forever 21, looked in vain for a palatable movie to see, and ate a very salty and wonderful soft pretzel. Not a bad day, considering.

I'm 42; 10 years younger than my grandmother was when she got breast cancer. I'm still not scared, or really even worried right now. I have a big white blob in the middle of my field of vision though, and it might turn out to be a long road of bullshit medical ordeals, or it might just be pretzel dough. I know what to do with both. I get the results in 7 days.