The first cancer scare I ever had was in 1999.
I’d had a mammogram and they’d found a hot spot. The nurse came at me with a needle. I clung to the ceiling and refused to come down and they decided to do a lumpectomy instead. It was day-surgery––i.e., I went home not long after I woke up from the anaesthetic.
During the time we had to wait for the results, I made a lot of jokes to Chris about how I was going to spend all our money on flamboyant wigs––this was during my flamboyant hair-extensions phase, when I swanned around town sporting monofibre down to my lower back. I would turn our study into a temperature-controlled wig closet, I said. And of course, I would need lots of new clothes to go with them. I would free my inner drag queen and let her take over.
Then I got the all-clear and I fell apart. I was limp for days.
Eventually I pulled myself together. I figured that was a little nudge from the universe to remind me I wasn’t invulnerable. I’d only told a few people and only after it was all over, so I pretty much forgot about it.
But the part I never forgot was how the good news––no malignancy––had undone me completely. I’d had no idea how much I’d braced myself to hear bad news. I had assumed the crash position and the plane had landed safely, normally, unremarkably. None of the other passengers were aware it could have happened any other way.
When Chris and I headed for the Macmillan Cancer Centre yesterday, we had no idea what we were going to hear. My tumour markers had already fallen dramatically, although there had been a very slight rise at the previous appointment. I’d decided to stay focussed on the things that felt good––exercise, eating fresh fruit, writing, walking without back pain. Chris helped me with everything, taking me to the gym, cutting up apples for me, making sure I could work undisturbed. He projects such an air of upbeat calm, even I don’t realise how much stress he’s under.
After we came home yesterday, he dropped onto the bed and slept for four hours straight while I danced on the couch, stared at the Gent, did a little work, and I’m not really sure what else.
Today Chris is still pretty done in. I took spoon inventory and discovered that, as I’ll be going out tonight, I didn’t have enough for the gym. That was disappointing––I’d pictured myself revving the recumbent bike to a new personal best in rpms before brandishing twice my bodyweight in the weight room. And all without a headscarf or a cap!
Well, you work with what you’ve got. Tonight I’m getting dressed up and taking my hair to a party. The gym will still be there tomorrow when I swan in with my pixie-ish good looks, even if I won’t be intimidating any of the bodybuilders with my strength.
That’s okay, they all seem to be good guys, and very tolerant of the little old lady working a wimpy little-old-lady pyramid, straining to complete 8 reps with 3 kilo free weights. Although the “Secretly Hoping Chemo Will Give Me Super-Powers” t-shirt probably helps.
(Now aren’t you glad you didn’t read only the tl;dr and skip the rest? You’d have missed the parts about my hair and the bodybuilders.)