I used to climb mountains. We would talk about the risks – all the objective and subjective risks. The risks you can control and the risks you cannot. Weather and crevasses and roping up and routes and conditions. Judgement calls and other people and how your body responds to altitude. So many risks, all to be considered and managed. For anyone who spends time in the mountains, it is that risk, that fine line we walk that is part of why we go out there. To be able to play with that risk, to manage it and come out the other side, safe and sound, but having lived it.
As I got my third IV of the week, my arms black and blue from trying to find veins that would work, I shared with the nurse that I was hoping this CT scan would show nothing, that the cancer growing in my thyroid had not moved to my lungs. She looked up at me, smiled with compassion and tells me that she has breast cancer and shows me the scars on her arms from her treatment. We ask each other about family history, neither of us being predisposed, and she says – well, I do work in radiology, as we both turn for me to head in for a second CT scan this month.
Everything’s a risk it seems.
I met with a pulmonologist this week to find out about the results of this chest scan. I hoped for nothing to be seen, but instead was told that there are many small little nodules all over my lungs. They could be anything – inflammation from the fact that I have cancer, it could be the start of cancer, or that the nodules are just there. They are too small to do anything about, and we cannot know until we have more data to compare them to down the road.
She tells me that I will need another CT scan in 6 months, that we need to monitor this, as I am high risk now.
I am high risk.
These words get stuck in my head, playing in a loop, going against every image I have of myself as healthy and whole. A new paradigm, a new reality.
Sometimes I just want to yell out I have fuckin’ cancer, people! I have cancer! To make it more real or to help myself believe it more. But ready or not, Monday when everyone is being awed by the solar eclipse, I will be loosing my cancerous thyroid. It feels auspicious to have this surgery during the solar eclipse, but maybe that’s just the need of the human brain to make sense of the world, to find meaning when there really isn’t any? Whatever. I’ll take it.
My risk is now my body. It is from within, this high risk that I need to negotiate and manage. It is so different a reality from climbing mountains and considering those risks; my brain still hasn’t fully processed it all. And while I had hoped that I could manage it all by just having the surgery and being done, that is not what my risk will be. Mine will continue, and be there, present and the new fine line I will need to walk.