From the archives of my draft folder. A story of waiting to find out why I thought I was dying of pain. Turns out, my trauma invades my days and I’m not going to die of butt cancer anytime soon.
I am my mother’s daughter. In so many ways. Thankfully. Luckily. She always said she and my dad wanted us to be more than they were. But I’m glad I get to aspire to be as much as she is.
My mom had colon cancer when I was in 8th grade. A distant friend of hers was diagnosed the same time she was. Early September 2002. By Christmas, my mom was cancer free but her friend was dead. I’ll never forget driving to Christmas Eve service with her when she got the call from my grandmother that her friend had left this world. Mom had had surgery in November to remove the cancer and chemo hadn’t been needed. A random polyp had burst in September and left blood where blood shouldn’t be. Which is why she’d gotten a colonoscopy, and they found the cancer still in stage one, and she is alive and in remission still. I knew she was going to be ok. I remember being nervous at school the day of her surgery, and seeing her post-op in her recovery bed hooked up to machines and in helpless pain. But the fact that her friend died in the same amount of time that she got well has stayed with me.
I am my mother’s daughter, and I track my bowel movements diligently. Colon cancer is genetic. My first colonoscopy came in 2014 because poop shouldn’t be yellow. It was likely a virus because my ultrasounds and colonoscopy were clean. Except for the foul taste of the beverage and waking up before Dr. Lau had finished, the whole experience wasn’t that bad.
I’ve had what I think is a kidney stone since November. Breath-taking pain and immense weakness on the lower right of my back. It comes in bursts and doesn’t last. I drank a full thing of cranberry juice, took Tylenol and talked to my doctor. He said we’d watch it.
On Saturday I had some lower digestive tract indigestion. And found some blood where blood shouldn’t be. I sent photos to my mom and asked what she thought. She said to call my doctor right away. It took me until Tuesday to call, and he said to come in on Thursday. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen this anomaly in the toilet bowl. The last time was right before we left for Christmas.
I’m so afraid. I’m paralyzed. The trauma voice in my head is telling me that bad things always follow good things, and that death is going to come for me when I’m not ready, and that my body is untrustworthy and has betrayed me before so why not again? Why not now? In this way? I can’t pray, I can’t think straight thoughts. I’ve bought 4 orders of clothes online since Saturday. A bright orange halter top that is also a backless crop top. Three swim suits. A pair of shorts because they were called “Mom Shorts” and because I am a mom. And I try to focus on the bright green bra that doesn’t fit but was only $12 because focusing on the pending colon exam makes me think that I was right when I told Ted years ago that I was pretty sure I was going to die after I gave him a baby. At the time he told me I was wrong, and he still believes that, and he tells me that’s my trauma self who did experience premature death.
I feel unsteady, like I’m just trying to stay upright. I find myself disassociating and wanting to curl my hair and wear really nice clothes and watch movies and paint my nails; to just ignore the Truth saying “Beloved, come sit with me and trust me through this.” So I can act like nothing serious matters and read all about everything that happened at the Golden Globes. No, I don’t think J Law and A Shau should host next year, but I would like a sip of what they were drinking at their table.
There was a line in my current book that described when German soldiers would come into the German boys’ school at lunch to tell one of the boys that their father died in action. All the boys would pretend not to notice the soldiers but each would still watch them out of the corner of his eyes as the soldiers walked the rows of seated boys. And when the soldiers would stop behind a boy, the boy would deliberately keep eating. He’d cut a piece of meat, take a drink, rechew the food in his mouth until the soldier put his a hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “Cadet, please come with us.” I feel like a boy the soldiers may be stopping behind, and I’m desperately clinging to the trivial, to the minutia in the present hoping they put their hand on the back of the kid next to me.
On Tuesday after I called the doctor, I did another arm work out because I’m telling myself it’s really important to have toned arms for Sadie’s wedding in a few weeks. Then I took a shower and washed and dried my hair with the intent to practice curling it, again because I’m telling myself that looking my best at her wedding in a few weeks is really important. But I rolled myself up in my bath towel and a blanket and hid under the comforter on our bed. And I stayed until Augustine woke up and demanded I be his mom.
He’s what brings me out. I hug him tightly, which makes him squirm and grunt and try to escape. Which makes me laugh. Playing with him makes me stop thinking about tomorrow and forces me to be present in the activity he and I are doing. I read him books and he kisses them. I build him towers of empty boxes and he kisses me. I tickle him and toss him above my head and he laughs and gives me open mouth kisses. It’s those kissed that I replay in my mind as I watch the clock tick away the hours until the doctor’s appointment.
Suzy came to watch him today, like she does once a week so I can write. We talked about things in her life, and I told her about this in mine. She has a friend with ovarian cancer right now, and cut her hair yesterday to donate to a wig maker. She said a prayer for me and let me make light of this because sometimes laughing is the only way to keep the fear from swallowing you whole. “I would die of butt cancer.” I joked.
Please, Lord. Let me be wrong.