We went to see Paula Poundstone perform last night. It was a hell of a lot of fun. She sort of riffs on what is going on with the audience for about 30% of it. It was a two hour show and over a half hour of it improved? And actually funny? Pretty damn impressive.
I’m glad we went, but I’m not going to lie. I wanted to jump out of my seat and run to the car so I could get home for most of the evening. I didn’t take a chill pill and the anxiety was bad. I’ve got all these subdermal cysts all over my body. They are incredibly sexy. During the show I was absentmindedly rolling one in my thigh around a bit and it sort of felt like a bruise. I realized that I have cancer. I have this realization with astonishing frequency. But that doesn’t change how scared it makes me.
Since last night I’ve been operating under the assumption that I have tumors all over my body. Lately I’ve been getting really full after eating a regular amount of dinner. The back of my throat feels like it is closing up and I get a little nauseous. These two things suddenly seemed to have a lot to do with each other and the cancer. And I’ve figured out that I don’t have HPV, but the cancer in the rest of my body has somehow caused the Pap smear to give wonky results. The really fucked up part is this all makes perfect sense to me. And I look at the boys and want to cry. I look at them and think I’m not going to see them grow up.
Tonight at dinner I casually mentioned to Z that I believe I have cancer. “Not cervical cancer, I know that would make sense. It’s the cysts again. They are tumors.”
Z, “Oh. That is really good to know.”
Me, “Yup.”……”This is a pretty big problem.”
Z, “I know. It is very serious. What do you think we should do? You know what? I think it is too late. I think you should just give up.”
Later we were getting the boys ready for bed. Me, “So there is another thing you should be aware of. You know, health-wise. With me.”
Me, “I’m developing an infection on the biopsy sites from the colposcopy. When you come home tonight (he is at a uke show around the corner from our house right now) you should probably make sure I’m not passed out with a fever. If I am please get me to the hospital.”
Z, “Why? I think it will be too late to help.”
Me, “That is fucking ridiculous. If you get me to the hospital in time I think I’ll make it.”
Z, “No. I’m going to throw you in Meadowbrook Creek.”
Me, “WHAT? Why?”
Z, “If it looks like you were murdered the insurance payoff will be bigger. For the boys. I have to think of money for the boys.”
Me, “What insurance policy? We have health insurance but we are not nearly together enough to have life insurance. Unless you took out a great big policy on me secretly.”
Me, “So don’t be an asshole and take me to the hospital so they can save my life!”
Z, “But they are just going to diagnose you with the cancer we talked about earlier. And it’s going to be a pain in the ass to arrange getting you there in the middle of the night. You know, with the boys.”
Me, “Call J and C! They will watch the boys! I don’t care that it is inconvenient! You need to save my life!”
Z, “MmmHmm….You do know that your pants are particularly crazy tonight, right?”
Me, “Yup. Probably a good idea for me to take a chill pill.”
Z, “No shit, Sherlock.”
This is how we deal with my crazy. I tell him what I’m thinking and he makes fun of me and I’m part of the joke as well and we can laugh at the stupidity of it all. The is the way that we have decided to navigate my anxiety-treat it lightly, don’t take it seriously, don’t give it power, laugh a lot. And maybe, just maybe we’ll defuse it. Underneath all the bantering is me telling Z I’m scared. I’m not doing well. The anxiety is bad. It is really super bad. Underneath all that is Z telling me he is with me. He hears that I am having a hard time. But he will not put up with my doomsday flights of fancy. He needs to remind me that it’s not me, it’s the anxiety lying to me.
It took years to get to this place. And I’m so grateful. When I think something terrible is going to happen I feel like I’m keeping an awful secret. When I can share that secret with him he is able to bear part of it for me. It’s a big ask on my part. But he does it. And he makes me laugh at the same time.
I wish I wasn’t so scared right now. I read Goodnight Moon to C every night. One of my many rules is I need to read it perfectly, no stumbling over any words, nothing out of order. Tonight I accidentally skipped the “Goodnight Room” page and went right to “Goodnight Moon” I couldn’t believe I did something so stupid. As the word moon came out of my mouth I knew it was wrong. And I won’t have a chance to fix it, to get it right for another 24 hours. I’ve brought something bad onto myself by messing up. When I’m unwell I need to follow the rules even more perfectly. They are what keeps me safe.
So if something terrible happens before tomorrow night you know why. And I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.
One more thing. I don’t think it is cute to be flip about cancer. But we aren’t being flip about cancer, rather the anxiety. That’s what at the root of all this. Anything we can do to attack it, undercut it, devalue it, weaken it we need to do it. If flippancy works, well hell. We’ve got to do it.