*Just want to warn you upfront that this post is rather littered with the f-word. Sorry, but as I’ve said before, sometimes it is the only word that works. This is most definitely one of those times. This post is also garbled, much like my mind right now.
First of all, thank you. Thank you so much. A million times over, thank you. One of the reasons I wanted to just go ahead and share our news, no matter how new or raw it might be, is that I knew that the “bucking-up brigade” (Downton Abbey fans out there?) would be right there, ready and waiting to start the bucking up. Because despite the purposely positive tone of yesterday’s post, I definitely needed, and need, and will need for a really long time, some bucking up. Make no mistake: I am scared. I am confused. I am angry (although I think I was a lot angrier at the guy who honked (and yelled!) at me in the hospital parking lot this morning because he thought I was going to hit his precious M6 convertible while I was backing into my space. I was nowhere near him. I so wanted to get out and scream into his window, “I got diagnosed with cancer yesterday. What’s your fucking excuse?!” I really wanted to key his car when I got back and he wasn’t in it anymore. Maybe my anger was a tad misdirected.). I needed the bucking up. Big time. And you all came through, big time. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Scared, confused, angry, yes. But right now, more than anything, I am still just stunned and disbelieving. As the past three weeks have unfolded, I have felt much like I did during those awful hours in the ER with Hudson before she was diagnosed. With each passing minute, it became clearer and clearer that at best, we were in for a very frightening experience, and at worst… well, we just couldn’t think about that at the time. All we could do that whole day was keep breathing and try, impossibly, to comprehend what was happening before our very eyes. It was a down-the-rabbit-hole experience if ever there was one. Reality just yanked us along, step by horrifying step, and we could do nothing except stumble along helplessly, waiting for someone to tell us what came next.
After I’d first noticed the swollen lymph nodes in early February and saw the doctor about them, they seemed to get smaller again, and we chalked them up to an infectious process of some kind. I forgot about them altogether for a few weeks. And then out of nowhere, I passed my hand over my neck again and there they were again (or still? I really don’t know, because I hadn’t been monitoring them, thinking they’d gone away). Over the next ten days, after a visit with the primary care doc, discussions with Jessica and my friend Nirav, a critical care doc at Maryland, and a visit to an ENT, it became clearer and clearer that it was time to get scared. When the ENT wanted a CT scan and a biopsy, I wasn’t surprised—in fact, I was relieved that we were going to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. But I was also in complete disbelief. I just couldn’t believe that the word “biopsy” was even on my radar. Was anywhere within 600,000 fucking miles of my radar. Even as I went through each day feeling as though it were simply impossible that the universe could possibly shit on us in such a terrible way again, I also grew more and more certain that that’s exactly what it was about to do. It was (and still is) an incredibly surreal time. I felt like I was in the mirror room at the fun house—turn this direction and life looks one way, turn another direction and it looks totally different, and every direction feels completely insane. In one breath, we were giddily discussing our crazy plans to renovate a crappy 1960s ranch house into a beautiful, light-filled bungalow that we’d live in until we died. And in the next breath, we were discussing the possibility that I might have cancer.
So when the pathologist finished looking at the slides and came back over to the table and said, “We’ll still have to do confirmatory tests, but it looks like Hodgkin’s to me. I’m so sorry,” I was simultaneously shocked and unsurprised. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it’s true. I’d been nearly certain that’s what I was going to hear, and yet I was still in utter disbelief that this could possibly happen. How the fuck could this possibly happen? How. The. Fuck. And of course, right after that, WHY? Why is this happening to us? AGAIN?
I read my post from yesterday, and I mean it. I read the few responses I’ve managed to write to messages and Facebook posts, and I mean them, too. I am trying to think positive. I am trying not to think too far into the future. But in everything I say and write, I also recognize the same protective coating of utter shock that kept me alive in the days after Hudson got sick and died. I read what I write and I listen to what I say and I think, “Wow, I sound way more upbeat than it seems I should feel.” But I’m not doing it on purpose. At least I don’t think I am. Maybe my brain is doing it on my behalf, to protect me from the fear, from the confusion, from the anger. After all, it has lots of practice at this.
And it’s a good thing, because in many ways, I feel the same today that I did the day after Hudson died. Obviously, nothing, nothing short of losing Ed or Jackson could ever be as bad as that, but the fear of the unknown future is the same. When Hudson died, I didn’t know how I would live. I knew I would live, but I didn’t know how. I had no idea what was in store for me, but I knew it would be awful. It might get better afterward, but it would be awful first. I just didn’t know how awful it might get. Today is the same. I know there is a dark night ahead of me, but I have no idea how dark it might get. I have that same feeling I had then that something is stepping right in the middle of my chest and won’t let up (but this time, I am terrified that it’s actually the cancer). And I am scared. And confused. And angry.
But the shock works. And the bucking up works. And Ed and Jackson and Hudson work. I have no idea what lies ahead, but on this, another terrible day after, I’m just grateful for that protection.