August 26, 2010


It's been one hell of a bumpy night -- almost twelve months since I went to Dr. Training Bra, aka Baby Doc, aka the doc-in-a-box to ask for a Nicotrol prescription. First time I ever met a so-called doctor (I think her M.D. came from the kind of school that used to advertise on matchbook covers.) who didn't jump all over the chance to stop a patient from smoking.

I thought I had a smoker's cough. Not so much. More like cancer. Lymphoma: two surgeries, one splitting my breastbone in two, followed by six rounds of "aggressive" chemotherapy, and now, well, now this -- this limbo, this sense that I am not who I was but I don't know who I will become.

It's a scary place to be. People congratulate me on having gone through chemo with flying colors, and physically, maybe I did. Mentally? Did I have any time or energy to think about what I was doing? Oh, all that is hitting me as I write. Months of mental processes ignored, shelved to make room for what was medically necessary.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: another item on the you've-got-cancer list that I did not find out about until I reached that stage, which is now. NOW. It's like a bad record playing over and over in my head. I went through something huge and awful, and while I'm technically on the other side of it, now is when it feels horrible in a way I couldn't have exposed myself while I was spending seven hours a week tied to an IV drip.

That tether was, in fact, my lifeline. Now I'm free of it, yet I don't quite feel that way. One major casualty of my dance with cancer was my relationship with the Artist, for which I am very sorry. My emotional plate far too full for so long that only my longstanding -- 20+ years -- friends have been able to make it through, to varying degrees, with me.

I get nervous and scared and shaky in an instant. The only comparable emotion in my repertoire is grief. The solution on which I am living is, take extra Xanax. Make phone calls, even in tears. I'm going to need help finding my feet, much less getting back on them.

When you are grieving, you alternate between different states of being, subject to change without notice. Some days are fine; some days, you are bereft. You don't know what to make of anything when you are in the throes of grief, and that is as close as I can get to describing how I feel.

Which end is up?