I was up late, writing in the middle of the night. I left my desk to toss cold water on my face, and I saw myself in the mirror as I dried off. I felt a flush come over face. My image in the mirror was slack and it seemed devoid of joy… It was another one of those, “Oh shit, I’ve got cancer” moments.
I am aware of my cancer, I cannot escape it. People say, “Don’t obsess. Try not to think of it so much.” There is no need to obsess because the cancer that eats at your will and your body 24 hours a day is not a quiet voice. It is the cancer that is obsessing. Even as you spend six hours at the computer searching for surgeons or hospitals or side effects your mind is in two places. It’s deep into the present as you fly from one website to another until your eyes want to bleed. And it’s in your ears, always obsessing. The best that can be done is to not listen. I don’t have to listen to it. It’s there, like background music. You just hear it.
I can joke about the cancer, I can shrug it off and describe it cooly and dispassionately to my friends. I want to tell the woman behind the café counter about it, or the taxi driver. But I hate the look on their faces when they listen.
If it’s Monday, it’s time to see the urologist.Time to see the oncologist.Time to see the radiologist.Call this one for test results. Where do I go to get my biopsy slides? Time to find a second opinion before I've had the first, and find patient reviews for both, Where did they go to school? Do they take Medicaid? How many of these surgeries or radiation treatments have they performed? What are the side effects? Are they as bad as the Casodex that rob my testoseterone, and why is there a pain in my groin? It’s nothing, urologist says. It’s a nothing that hurts.
How many times will I wake up tonight and just stand there holding myself in my hand, leaning on the wall, closing the light and the door and crawling back into the bed. I dreamt a nightmare last night of nuclear holocaust and firestorms and and in it clutching a baby in my arms. I have never had a child, but for some touching reason I loved that baby sweetly and heartbreakingly.
Spent my ‘morning off’ on the phone with health coaches and hospitals and pathologists. There are no ‘days off.’ The confusion makes me want to throw up my hands and scatter sticky notes all over the room...Need to schedule transportation by the 14th to make an appointment with them to take me to the radiologist on the 21st , so I need to set reminders to call for the transport by the 14th and also a reminder for the appointent. Same procedure for each trip to the doctor or the hospital or the support group...Trying now to and squeeze a new appointment to see a second surgeon between two more. Set reminders hospital visit or the urologist, the pathologist, the oncologist. The radiologist. The head of urological surgery at Hackensack is Ihor Sawczuk. Not a typo. Maybe he’s Polish, like me. Maybe we will bond! Ha! Have to get my notebooks that are filled with questions to ask the surgeon at UMDNJ. All the yellow sticky pad notes on my desk top. Call Dr Hosay, Dr Shaiman, Dr Jordan, Dr Sawcczuk. Call Dr Goldfarb and Dr Nadkarni. The support group is in the city tonight, every Wednesday night at Beth Israel at Union Square. It’s hot out. It’s rush hour. Social worker suggests to find a therapist to maybe help me calm down… And most of all, most of ALL don’t obsess about it. I don’t fucking need to obsess. There will be another “Shit, I’ve got cancer” moment waiting somewhere around the next corner .
My partner and I are having brunch. It’s hot but there is a breeze off the river. We are looking at the sailboats on the river and talking about how clearly we can see the skyline, and a beat later the Gleason score enters in. The ins and outs of treatment. Biopsy reports. Or this unwanted guest in me. We talk and listen more intently now than ever, if that's possible. We leave each other more latitude now. We are learning new ways to communicate. Things that worked well work even better between us, with wider margins and love and respect. Unlike others, she does not tell me not to obsess, but only suggests that I hand the ball off to a power that is greater than mine—which I do, now more than ever. And I place my hand in mine
So I pray my secret prayers in my own secret language, which may be hard to explain... But I don’t have to explain; these conversations are my prayers.