Tuesday, April 21, 2009

use your words like a big girl

I felt like a 2 year-old child today. A 2 year-old in the middle of a tantrum. I had two appointments scheduled, one for a CTA scan and the other a pre-operation screening of sorts. The breakdown came early, at Mass General West, in the suburbs of Boston, while waiting for the scan that would make a picture of my abdominal blood vessels for my plastic surgeon.

I don’t know exactly what it was that triggered my emotional roller coaster ride, but I do know it started with feeling grumpy. Really grumpy. Grumpy that Greg and I were sitting in a non-descript waiting room in a non-descript highwayside building on a lovely spring morning. Grumpy that I couldn’t eat any of the sea salt chocolate in my bag. Grumpy that it was taking so long for them to call my name. Grumpy evolved into downright pissed pretty quickly. I was angry. What was I doing here, anyway? I’m a healthy person. I’m not sick. To hell with this.

And then the anger melted into tears, and I was so sad and so tired of waiting and worrying and trying not to worry. I was sad about having cancer, about having to have another IV to inject dye that would make me feel like I really was a 2 year-old, pre-potty training. I was sad about needing surgery and about the stress of working out all the details of taking care of a family and cancer concurrently. But they finally called me in, and it wasn't so bad.  

I thought I was over it by the time we got to the second appointment, 3 hours later in downtown Boston. And mostly I was. But we were in a shabbier looking wing of the hospital, and the waiting room was windowless, devoid of magazines and full of people preparing for surgery. No matter how much I believe in my treatment plan, no matter how certain I am that the choices I have made are right for me, it is very difficult to be optimistic while sitting in a crowded room with no natural light or distractions other than fellow patients. There was a young woman beside us in a wheelchair, and she would periodically moan from the depth of her belly, a sorrowful and weary sound. I felt like that. I wanted to make that sound, too. Her caregiver would comfort her, and she would quiet. And then she would begin to cry and her wail was so desperate, I felt as though my own heart were breaking. Which, of course, it was. As it has over and over again these past few months.

These moments, like the tantrum and the deep despair of that second waiting room, they come, but they pass quickly. I’m lucky that the situations that breed them are so few and far between for me. There are many ways in which I am lucky. I know that, and I appreciate it. I have read that some cancer survivors view the disease as a gift of sorts. No one will ever convince me that cancer is a gift. While cancer may be an effective way to get life lessons quickly, I won’t ever be grateful for it. Perhaps for the lessons, of which I can already see the outlines, but not for the cancer.

I had hoped, when I sat to write, that I would pull something insightful or at least a little lighter out of the tangle of feelings that I had today. But I guess not. Maybe next time. Thanks for listening anyway.


  1. I have to agree, a gift I wish I had never unwrapped. Would gladly have returned. surely cant regift it.. My melt down came too at an apt. or I should say one of many melt downs.. If I could say one true thing its the hardest part is what you are going thru now the wait the wonder the out of control.. Its not much of a gift I agree.. Its kind of like a monkey on the back but.. it truely does get much better I promise! xoxoox Someday we need to meet..much love Gayle