What lies within
Tomorrow marks 8 weeks since my surgery. Eight weeks since part of my body was removed. A part of my body that was actively trying to kill me; growing and spreading to nearby organs. A part of my body that served a function, but now is replaced by a synthetic hormone I wake early to take each morning.
I could spend time disappearing down rabbit holes on the interwebs, working to learn why my thyroid was growing and how it had become cancerous. Or why it was cancerous, but still working like normal. Or why it spread to my lymph nodes. Or why that didn’t show up on a CT scan, but nodules on my lungs did. So many questions. But, mostly, I try to avoid the interwebs. Or even, I try to avoid the questions.
There is a willful ignorance I am entertaining right now. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know the reasons why. I don’t want to understand the process, I don’t want to understand how I am going to ingest something radioactive and how I am going to continue to get CT scans and how I will continue to put my body in danger, all for the sake of keeping other dangers at bay.
There is an immediacy to my life, for the first time not planning for the future. I can’t seem to think much beyond the next few weeks. And then the next few weeks. Me – who planned trips far in advance, who mapped out jobs and trajectories; me, who wanted to always plan and think ahead. Now the distant future seems so fragile and scary and tenuous. If I just ignore it, it will come, I seem to be thinking.
Instead, I watch my scar diminish and heal. The visual reminder of this cancer slowing disappearing, blending in with my skin and the folds of my aging neck. Ah, it pays to have older skin. I am not overly vain, but I am happy to see it disappearing. This marks the passage of time – time that I feel ok, that everything feels normal, time that makes life is returning to normal.
Bu, when I go for runs, it is harder than its been in years. Sometimes it is hard to take a deep breath. One inner-voice just rationalizes that I sat around doing nothing for 3 weeks, that I am still healing, that my body was fighting inside to be healthy. A quieter, scarier inner voice is incessant, whispering what if? What if it’s your lungs? What if there’s cancer there too? What if it spread?
I close down that inner voice, ignoring it, focusing on the ‘I’m fine’ thing. Because, mostly, I do feel fine. But once a week, I go to therapy and, for weeks now, I regularly cry. We talk about cancer, and how it could still be there and how it is scary. And I am uncertain. And that I am fine, and not fine, all at once. That I feel good, and I’m scared. And holding those two thoughts all the time, in all places of my life, is hard and scary and sometimes draining. Meditation feels scary, writing has felt scary.
All my life, when I’ve wanted something, I’ve worked hard. I set a goal, figure out how I am going to get there and done it. Discipline comes easy(ish) to me; 5 am wake up calls for long runs, and studying for grad school, and working hard. But, here, now, there is nothing I can do. Nothing I can do to fight what might be happening in my body. All I can do is follow the directions of my doctor, show up at appointments, and be kind to myself and my body.
And so, this level of inaction, of not being able to do anything — all I can do is ignore it, to move forward, to swallow down that fear and uncertainty. And simply, to be present to what is happening right now, right here. A run that feels less hard, a bike ride on a fall day, coffee with my sweet man, sharing a good meal with old friends.
It’s no different than any other time, I suppose — a good reminder to be appreciative of what I have right now, right here. And a reminder, that eventually, that which is within will be surface and it will be the right time.