Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Day After

*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.


  1. Baby steps Mandy, keep breathing. One day at a time. You're not alone.

  2. I wish I had something profound to say like many of your friends and unknown readers have. I don't. I'm speechless, sending my love to all of you.

  3. Love, love, love to you, Mandy. Both are true, as you know: the cruelty and anger and fear AND the love and Light and joy and beauty. You are surrounded in Light as you walk this confusing, scary path. Many hugs.
    Rachel C.

  4. This is some sort of cruel joke, right? Makes me want to scream. Good for you for following your instincts that something wasn't right with you. The answer wasn't pretty, and the journey will continue to be filled with bumps along the way, but had you waited too long, I imagine the scenario would be much different. What an amazing woman you are, Mandy.

  5. You are right about the f word. When I first saw your previous post all I could think was "no. No f-ing way. You have to be f-ing kidding me" (and this is when I've done a pretty good job of eradicating that word from my vocabulary...or so I thought. This is absolutely one of those things none of us can or will be able to explain because we just do not understand why bad (understatement) things happen to amazing people. Again and again.

    I'm amazed you could even get one positive post out already. That is amazing. Posts and feelings like above are natural and expected and continue to use the rest of us support. We all know you have te strength you need to get through this. After all of you could Get through What uou did with Hudson, You can get through anything.

    Thinking of you and sending our best wishes

  6. My first thought when I read your post yesterday, was, "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME UNIVERSE." Because, NO. Just NO. I'd be just as unreasonably angry. You have every right to feel that. I may not know you well, but I know you are strong and positive and surrounded by strength and love even at your lowest moments. You will beat this. You will. Because eff you universe. Bring it.

  7. I can't get this out of my head, Mandy. It is just so surreal that you have to fight another battle after what happened to Hudson. Dammit! I am angry how fucking sinister life has treated you lately.

    So, this is a time to fight. You are going to get this done and you will succeed. People always say how strong one is, but honestly, what choice do you have?!

    I wished I could help you guys in any way, we have a guestroom close to the beach in Florida, once you need a break, let us know!

    All the best,

    Keep your head up, you are going to be alright!

  8. There is no use trying to make sense of this. Because honestly, it's not possible.

    Thinking of you.

  9. I did not post before when I read about your diagnosis. I did not know what to say. We have all been through so much that I think we should all have like a 10 year hiatus on bad news of any kind. Although we have never met, and likely will never meet I am thinking about you and sending healing thoughts. BTW I love Downton Abbey, and I am 100% on your bucking-up brigade.

  10. Mandy, you're entitled to unlimited use of the f-word. If you can't use it now, when can you?

  11. How can this be real? I just can't believe it. I am so sorry, Mandy. Fuck, indeed.

    If there is any justice in the world, this cancer battle will be the bookend of a really terrible time that 50 years from now you will look back on and marvel that you made it through. You'll wonder how you did it when things seemed so bleak. And you'll think how sweet the years since then turned out to be. That is my hope for you.

    By the way, I drove by the kite festival today and immediately thought of Hudson. She is never far from my mind. Lots of love to you.

  12. Hudson's picture still hangs on my fridge where I put it the day of the service. I look at her and pray for you, daily. Just wanted to tell you that.

  13. Doesn't seem my comment on your first post came through, but just...thinking of you tons. No wisdom here, but so much respect for you and for Ed and for this amazing community of support you have built. Count me in the bucking-up brigade in all ways possible.

  14. Hang in there Mandy! use the F word liberally and with emphasis. you are such an amazing person and you have it in you to beat this thing. please take care of yourself at this point and let everyone who offers help you in any way that they can. You deserve to be surrounded by love and light while you travel this journey. I will keep you in my thoughts as always.

  15. Sending prayers for full and complete healing, for minimal side effects from treatment, and for all the love and support you deserve.

  16. My personal favorite version of the word is fuckity fuck fuck fucking A!. Feel free to shout it whenever you need to my friend...
    I am thinking of you Mandy.. and will be in the road ahead.

  17. Oh Mandy...I have not commented in a long time, but a mutual friend told me about what you are facing now. It is just so damn unfair, that I'm not even sure what to call it. I do know that if there's anybody who can kick cancer's ass, it's you.