October 16, 2009

At night

It is hardest at night, not to take counsel of your fears. At night, when you are the least capable of rationally examining a possibility for its realistic effects, that's when you are most vulnerable. You are not able to distinguish, to right your listing little boat of a mind, to make yourself say, "oh, stop it". That's where I was, again, last night. I woke at around 2:30. I was physically uncomfortable, sure. I cannot turn on to my right side to sleep and have to sleep either on my back or my left side. And I kind of have been keeping a pillow between my right arm and my rib cage. If the dressing over the wound presses against the mattress, it causes discomfort, sometimes sharply, but always at least dull discomfort. Anyway, I allowed, somewhere in the night, my fears to overwhelm me and I woke somewhat overwrought. Ok, that's not quite right. I was awakened by a combination of physical discomfort and being scared. Waking up mostly took care of the overwrought, actually. Getting out of bed, closing the door to the bedroom so that the light from downstairs would not wake my sleeping wife, that took away some of my fear.

And I freely admit to being scared. I don't want this thing to be cancer. You would not know this, but if it is cancer, this is relatively rare. Only, perhaps, about a thousand people a year in the country get this one. That's why I was seen so quickly at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. That plus the fact that the tumor is actually pretty large.

Anyway, I learned last night that the doctor was unable to tell from looking under the microscope whether it was malignant or benign and that the final verdict must await the tests that will conclude some 9 days from Wednesday. I will learn what it is on the 23rd. In the meantime, I will try to control my anxiety, which is actually sometimes palpable. I mean, I can actually feel my heart race. It was worse, mind you, before I got the results of the CT scan when I was terrified that (1) it was cancer and (2) that perhaps it had spread to my pulmonary system -- the one fatal consequence for me that the doctor had identified. That was when I was terrified. As I asked, brokenly (and I mean brokenly -- I could barely get the question out, it took at least three tries), would I live to dance at my daughter's wedding? That is what I was focused on -- my children.

It is difficult not to let them know how I am feeling. But that is not a fear that I will visit upon them. I mean, if I can barely deal with it, and I actually have some fucking perspective on this, how could they? Right. They cannot. So, one attempts to cope. And so far, it seems to be working out ok. They seem unaware, unchanged. That's good.

In the meantime, I wait. I don't wait very well. But for right now, I wait and the thing that bothers me is that this waiting period, which is terribly unpleasant, might turn out to be, in retrospect, the best part of the whole experience. That is the thing that I really hate. I feel almost as if I have to enjoy this waiting period because, God forbid, this might be the last time when I can believe that I am cancer free, when I don't have to think about radiation/chemo/more surgery. This waiting time might be thought of as the time of innocence. The time after might be the time of experience. I dimly think that William Blake wrote poems about that, several hundred years ago. Anyway, that is ultimately what freaks me out right now, that my time of innocence might come crashing down around me with one simple sentence on the 23rd -- your tumor is malignant.

I'm not sure if it helps to write this out. This, after all, might just be an extension of my night fears.

But it sure feels real.

Posted by Random Penseur at October 16, 2009 03:46 AM | TrackBack

RP - I'm glad you're back online but I'm sorry to hear it is under these circumstances. I always find that putting down my fears from the middle of the night is a two-edged sword - it helps me to see the falsehoods in my assumptions, but it also makes my fears more concrete. The act of writing them down cements the logic in my brain, giving them more power even as I realize they are false.

Posted by: Angie at October 20, 2009 01:15 AM

I also am so glad you are posting. Since you stopped posting, I have gone through breast cancer treatment (was diagnosed in early March and have finished the worst of the treatment with some left to go). I kept a journal composed of weekly emails to family/friends that chronicled the steps of my journey. It was very helpful and therapeutic.

If there is ANYTHING I can do for you, either now or later, please email me at the address above. I know you don't know me , but I have read your blog for a very long time and feel like I know YOU, in that weird way the internet allows to happen. (I grew up in Bronxville, so I feel the camaraderie of fellow NYers as well.)

I will say two things now -
a. If you have to do chemo, it is not like you think. Many of us have terrible memories from the old days when chemo was debilitating. They are not accurate. I worked straight through, worked out regularly and lived a fairly normal life.
b. I can say with certainty - the waiting is the ABSOLUTE WORST PART. Even if the news is not what you hope for, the waiting is worse than the knowing. Once you know (no matter what you find out), you can develop a plan and put your energy towards implementing it. You can move forward, and that is so much better than waiting. I promise. Whatever lies ahead, please know that this is not the best part, this is the WORST part. I also will say that I have concluded that the cancer journey (I hate that word but can't think of a better one) is primarily a mental one. And that is what makes the waiting so hard.

Whatever lies ahead, you can do it. I NEVER would have believed I could do it and I did (and continue to).

Please email me any/all questions if there is any support or encouragement or information I can provide, either now or in the future.

I wish you above all, a peaceful heart.

Posted by: Amy at October 20, 2009 09:07 PM

RP, I'm just checking in. Thinking about you.

Posted by: Jura at October 21, 2009 04:47 PM

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