Somewhere between a mammogram and a loving embrace, a stranger decided to invade my left breast. “It’s cancer,” the radiologist said defensively, as if it was his fault.
Technically, the stranger is made of my own rogue cells. I don’t understand why they’ve decided on a hostile take-over. Maybe, they think it will make things better, but anarchists don’t understand how a rabble brings chaos, not justice.
My scientific training denies me the luxury of denial. I don’t want to be here, but I have no choice.
Why? Why? Why?
Is it because my DNA can’t handle nightly martinis? Have I irradiated my cells with too much sunlight, or poisoned myself with too many pieces of bacon? Perhaps my immune system has never forgiven me for the cigarettes I smoked when I was a student, or is sick of me stressing over things that shouldn’t concern me.
As bullies usually do, this stranger started with the easiest target: a soft breast, ripe for a coup with its population of rampaging hormones. I thought I could handle bullies, but now I’m a victim. Caught in a violence I never saw coming, and have no way of stopping, I’m running through dark alleys, trying to find an escape.
When I stop running, and stand to face my diagnosis, I’m the casualty looking at a car wreck, wishing I could turn back time and not be injured. Then, the stranger is me. That stranger has cancer.
I don’t want to be here, in this time and place. I grieve for my past health. There’s no comfort in the future. There is only the NOW, or sadness and fear.
A lifetime of low-grade depressive thinking is shocked into a heightened sense of awareness. Colours are brighter; flavours, sound and touch interweave into a fascinating tapestry; the streets smell of spring time; every passing stranger has a good reason for being in my world.
After the adrenaline shock, life returns to normal until the 3 am Whale Of Doom breaches in daylight. Then, I’m getting teary in the supermarket, worrying what will happen to the people I love if I’m not here. Who will know their secrets? Will they be lonely? Do they feel helpless because they can’t fix me?
Finally, bureaucracy lumbers in, stomping over petals of kindness, strewn my way from unexpected and expected places. The compassion of health professionals is smothered by paper work, and I’m lost in a limbo of unknown dangers; just another statistic in the cancer administration.
Living causes death, but when the finality takes shape in our future, survival depends on how we make the final approach. I have a condition where medical science is winning the battle, but delay of the inevitable, offered by treatment, is small consolation. Nothing and nobody can hold my hand tight enough to halt my journey to that ultimate destination.
So, here I go: a minuscule knot of energy in a vast and powerful universe. I can choose to see myself as unimportant, or I can choose to be a part of something infinitely wonderful. An insignificant cabal of rebel cells doesn’t rate a mention in the scheme of things.