I saw the pathologist Dr. Benedict this morning-she was doc #4 to examine a walnut-sized lump that had suddenly appeared on the left side of my neck. She poked it with a needle 12 times in order to withdraw tissue samples that would be used to determine if it was, uh…cancer. I won’t know for a week.
“What if it’s cancer?” I’ve asked myself that question about fifty times today. But rather than try and answer it, I sat around and conjured up all the terrible potential consequences of this frightening diagnosis.
Cancer has been far too frequent a visitor in my life.
It took my mother before I even knew her, and it dragged my father through a painful and undignified 3 months before finally sucking the final bit of life from his 90-pound body.
Cancer claimed my father’s brother and one of his sisters. My niece has been bravely staving off cancer’s death-lust for 15 years now; it took her leg but not her life. (That changed on the day after Christmas, 2014, when her family bravely decided to remove her tumor-ravaged body from life support.) My sister-in-law recently had a malignant tumor removed from her breast. It seemed my destiny that one day I too would be forced to lace up the gloves and step into the ring with this very formidable foe.
I was sad, I was scared and I felt a strong sense of vulnerability that I’d not felt before.
The specter of death became reality for the first time in my life. Sure, I knew intellectually that I was going to die some day, but I’d always figured I’d face that truth at a more appropriate time. Well, that time had arrived.
For several hours I allowed my thoughts to ride roughshod over my psyche.
Then my brain decided it was time for the chaos in my head to end. For no reason I can determine the panic subsided and I was overcome with gratitude for the blessings in my life. My first thought was, “I don’t live in Syria.”
I thought that was an odd thought, but it opened a floodgate of reminders of how fortunate I am and have been throughout my life-I needed that. And then the answer to that panic-inducing question came to me:
“What if it’s cancer?”
Well then, I guess we’ll deal with it.
I’ll be inspired by the courage of my family and friends who bravely, sometimes unsuccessfully, did battle with this ruthless, indiscriminate killer. I’ll pull together every resource available to me and slay this demon, because I still have much to see and do, much to give and much to share.
All that’s “if”, of course.