“Fuck, I need to outlive Dick Cheney,” flitted among the random thoughts streaming through my brain this past weekend. No, I don’t start all of my sentences with expletives and no, I don’t have a morbid fascination with death or with his evilness (ok, that’s debatable).
Here’s the thing: on Friday afternoon, I found out that I have colon cancer. A PET/CT scan would be required to determine what stage (or how far the cancer had spread), but that wouldn’t be until Tuesday. I was left to spend the weekend worrying, absorbing the news, reading what I could on the Internet about stages, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis. If it was early stage, it could most likely be cured through surgery with possible adjuvant chemotherapy. If it was late stage and had spread to the liver and/or lungs, the prognosis was much darker.
Although I tried to be hopeful and stay positive, my gallows humor somehow always manages to sneak its way in. As we were watching my son’s pee-wee football game Saturday morning, I shared my random Dick Cheney thought with my husband. His response, “Aren’t you setting the bar kinda low?” Me: “I’m just taking this ladder one rung at a time.”
You see, DH (dear husband) gets it. He knows that humor, even if it’s black humor, is gonna get me through. I told my BFF (who you’ve met in earlier posts) what DH said and she just told me, “Lis – just don’t tell anybody else that.”
She knows. Not everybody gets my sardonic side. People will think I really have jumped on the crazy train. My family, god love ‘em, will worry that I’m coming unglued. But S. – she gets it, too.
She’s always been the Shirley to my Laverne. She’s updated our friendship: she’s now Meredith to my Cristina. I’m her person. And, she’s my person. Apologies to those of you who aren’t Grey’s Anatomy fans; I’m sure (at least I hope) you have your person, too.
“How come you always get to be the cute, bright and cheery one and I have to be the odd duck?” I ask. In our conversations, I think this is a perfectly reasonable question.
“Meredith is NOT bright and cheery,” she replies. True, Meredith is rather dark and twisty. But, Cristina – she’s just out there, doing her own thing. Hard-core. With occasional cracks in her armor. Last week, Cristina’s roommate found her doing the Flashdance thing with her headphones cranked up really loud.
“Oh, alright, I can be Cristina. Just be my person.”
S. feels bad that she can’t go with me to the PET/CT Scan – 2 ½ hours of sheer boredom, according to Brian, the Radiologist. “It’s ok,” I tell her (and DH, and my minister, who also offered to come with me). “I don’t think they’ll let you in the back with me anyway and I’ll just bring along a good book.”
Turns out books are not allowed. Nope, just me, a hospital gown, my socks & shoes (yes, I was a lovely sight) and an hour to rest with the radioactive dye coursing through my veins. And, then 30 minutes to lie still in the PET Scan machine.
Again, my dear friends (both OS & IRL) and their acerbic wit come to the rescue. I recall Freaky’s comments about the weird spa they were in during Deven and Daniel’s hospice stay. I try to visualize, telling myself it’s just a really strange spa treatment. I try to imagine the creepy gown open in back is really a plush terry Red Door Spa robe. I take deep, calming breaths – focus on the breath (so, ok, maybe all that yoga wasn’t a total waste of time).
As I get ready to head into the PET Scan Tunnel (imagine an MRI tunnel, but open on both ends), I close my eyes and tell myself it’ll be just like Space Mountain. Dark, scary, but when you’re done, you stand up and say, “that wasn’t so bad.”
Actually, after Space Mountain, I said, “let’s do it again.” Not a chance, here. But, I was trying. I was also trying to put all thoughts of the actual cancer out of my mind, and just focus on the positive. Like a facial or massage, it may sting or be uncomfortable for the moment, but it was to help me heal and get well.
I tried not to think about Dick Cheney. I tried not to think about the other people in the waiting room, most of whom were older, but a few who were much younger than I. I could sense the anxiety, as people asked when they would get their results. I tried to stay in the moment and not worry about results – there would be time for that. Someone told me the results should be read later that afternoon and forwarded to my doctor either that day or the next morning.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait very long. My doctor called a few hours later. “We got your results,” he said. “Good news. The cancer is still inside your colon and hasn’t gone through the wall or spread.”
I let out a very deep breath and said a quiet, “Thank you.”