Saturday, May 18, 2013

What Makes you Scared?

I'm scared of Cancer.
I'm scared of sickness. And every year or so, I get worried that I am starting to feel lumps in my neck. It happened last winter and it happened this winter too. Except even though last year, the ultrasounds, CT scans and bloodwork all proved my worries to be unfounded, this year, I was sure the cancer had come back.

So I worried for weeks and weeks and told no one. When I finally mustered up the courage to phone the doctor's office, I think I whispered my concerns into the receiver. And even then I didn't tell my husband.
It's strange because I'm a talker. It's what I do. I'm an over-sharer, even. Things normal people wouldn't tell anyone, I will admit to strangers on the bus. 

This fear, however, was different. And for a very long time, I didn't even tell my husband how preoccupied my mind was with contemplating my own mortality. Because it's depressing. And because I wanted to believe I was just being crazy. And also because of all the worry and stress we went through together four years ago. I guess I thought I could shoulder it all by myself, if only for a while.

Today, I had my ultrasound.
I wouldn't get any answers today - I've had enough utlrasounds to know. But I would quietly contemplate and count the seconds that the technician held her wand in each quadrant of my neck, noticing if she lingered in any one area, possibly measuring a suspicious mass and typing, typing, typing cryptic messages into her keyboard. I would lie perfectly still with somber stoicism. I would remain emotionally neutral.

When the technician put down her wand and handed me a wadded up paper towel, she said, "Good! All done!" (Any Cancer survivor knows you don't forget words like that. You wonder if the "good" means that she's glad she's done or if what she saw was actually a promising result.)

Then she turned to me and said, "I don't see anything that is not normal."
I began to cry. I wiped my neck and said hoarsely, "Thank you. Thank you for saying that."
"I'm not allowed," she said frankly. She had an Eastern European accent that I couldn't place, but that made every statement seem blunt and to-the-point.
"I know," I said.
"But it looks normal. I know."
I sat up and wiped my tears and said to her, "I think once you've had Cancer, you never stop being afraid. Ever."
She said, "Where I am from, we have a saying... When you get bitten by snake.... then you afraid of lizards."

And I laughed through my tears with a relief I haven't felt in months. And I was so thankful for this person who had not followed the rules and who had given me some peace.

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