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Ups and downs

I’m so touched by all the support I’ve been getting from everybody over the past couple of days. It’s overwhelming, and deeply, deeply touching. And it certainly brightens up the darker, scarier corners of my mind.

I’m still getting used to the idea that I have cancer. One of the things I’ve noticed is that my own reaction to this information is wildly unstable.

Sometimes I feel scared half to death that I have cancer. It’s the thing I’ve always dreaded. I imagine it creeping stealthily through my body over the past few months or years, seizing territory, staking claim – a dark malignant force with a big head start.

But then GC will hug me or Duncan will purr on me, or I’ll read some of your messages, and then suddenly I’m fine, confident that I have a good chance of emerging strong and healthy. Who knows, I might even be stronger and healthier than ever before. And maybe even wiser! And maybe I’ll have a whole new sense of clarity about the meaning of life! And maybe I’ll finally organize my art supplies! And write a book! And….! (As you can see, I have outrageously high expectations of cancer’s potential to improve my life.)

Yesterday I had lunch with Marta, a storyteller who wants to tell one of my stories at a conference for teenagers. Near the end of our conversation, she brought up the subject of my cancer diagnosis, and said she believes every experience comes with gifts. I knew exactly what she meant, because I believe it too. I know it sounds a little pollyannish or new-agey, or at least a little grasping-at-straws-y. Call me an incurable optimist, but I honestly believe good things will come of me having breast cancer. That’s not to say that these good things will necessarily be worth the ordeal of breast cancer, only that it won’t be all bad; some good will emerge.

And already good things are coming out of it – for example, I had no idea I had so much support from so many people until this week. No idea at all. It makes me very happy to know that so many people care about me and want to help me. You’re like a protective force all around me.

After lunch with Marta, I went for a massage and then took the bus home. I was thinking about my son. I’ve been on his case for years to get the chicken pox vaccination because if he gets pox as an adult, he might be unable to have children. Clearly this is something that matters more to me than to him at this point, but someday it might matter very much to him, so I’ve been urging him to do what he can to keep his reproductive options open. Anyway, on Wednesday night I told him I had cancer and we talked about that, and then, as usual, the subject of chicken pox came up. This time he promised me he’d call and make an appointment the very next day to get the vaccination.

So I was sitting on the bus, thinking about James and his future children, and of course that made me think about knitting, and then suddenly it occurred to me that maybe I’d never meet his children and maybe I should knit something now, just in case. Well, that struck me as so sad I started weeping right there on the bus, and that struck me as so funny I started giggling. So if you happened to be on the #14 yesterday afternoon and saw a woman laughing and crying at the same time, now you know why.

So yeah, I have my moments. But most of the time I’m doing okay and gradually coming to terms with the idea that I have cancer.

*Just a note to those of you who have been sending emails – thank you so much, and I’m not ignoring you, it’s just that I’ve fallen way behind on my emails the last couple of days. I’m trying to catch up.

18 comments to Ups and downs

  • grace

    We once stopped at the White Lake Fish Hatchery along Highway #7 so that our daughter, who had been potty trained for exactly one week (and insisted on making the journey to Toronto in her new underpants), to, well, take advantage of the great outdoors. I was busy nursing her newborn sister so my husband did the honours. He got back in the car soon after with damp footwear and completely flumoxed that it would be a daughter who managed to pee on his shoes.

    Flashforward 20 or so odd years to another trip along Highway 7 when an empty-nesting, perhaps menopausal woman in tears could barely choke out this reply to her mystified mate: “But nobody will ever pee on your shoes aggggggggggggggain.” We all have our moments.

  • More than once, I’ve been walking along the street, talking to m’self about such things, when that little voice on one shoulder says, “Uh, skdadl? You’re walking along the street talking to yourself out loud?”

    And then the little voice on the other shoulder starts laughing like mad, and I laugh along. (So then I’m walking along the street laughing for no apparent reason.)

    We do have our moments, for sure.

  • Lissa

    Oh Zoom, you are soooooooooo in my thoughts and please hold fast the knowledge that the universe knows best for us. It is up to you to make your sad news a positive gift. Please treat your lovely body well and nourish it with love and healthy food for your immune system. You are a strong woman, exercise that in your daily thoughts and actions. Enjoy the ride and you will awaken to your own potential and get well at the same time.

  • James

    You’ll be pleased to know I’ve got a 2:20pm appointment next Tuesday for the chickenpox vaccination :)

    And that sounds like pretty standard behaviour for the #14!

    Love you lots!!

  • Oma

    James, we are all glad you got the appointment.

    Zoom … you will have a roller coaster ride of emotions, I am sure … but of all the people I know, you are the most likely to sit back and observe the view as the terrors and the highs whizz past. And you will emerge at the bottom all in one piece. Love you.

  • I did the same weeping/giggling thing yesterday morning on the way to work (not coincidentally just after reading about your diagnosis). For reasons that don’t exactly have to do with me, per se, but with the unpredictability of life, and its end, generally.

  • Grace – I love that story.

    Skdadl – I think I’ve seen you on the streets of Ottawa!

    Thank you Lissa. I’m already starting to eat healthier.

    James, yay! Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And yes, good point about the #14 – nobody even looked at me funny.)

    Oma, I do like to see what’s going on around me, except I’m a little squeamish about medical stuff so I tend to avert my eyes.

    Kate, I think I know what you mean, at least conceptually.

  • Julia

    Positive things have come from me having (had) cancer.
    Interestingly, I still don’t see myself as someone who had cancer, nor do I see myself as a “cancer survivor”, as they are called these days. I think it’s because it was such a little lump and it was all gone with the surgery. The only time I felt sick was with the chemo – the cure was worse than the disease.
    You are right – good will come of this.

  • Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy

    Cancer is big and nasty and creepy and scary and curable. You will do well, no matter what happens!

    Hugs and purrs to you and Duncan!

  • XUP

    “Gradually coming to terms” — it’s only been a couple of days, you pillock! But I guess knowing what you have to deal with is a lot better than all those days and weeks of worrying and wondering and speculating. And, I think you should make James go out and procreate right now just because he’ll do anything you want at the moment. xxxoooxxxooo

  • Be positive that all will be well but, become very pro active and demanding in your care and try to get things moving quickly. I know there are wait lists but try to get that treatment plan going asap…ciao

  • deb

    I was think the same as XUP…lol

  • Yes! A protective force all around you – THAT’S a vision to hold on to! As for the bus, how about restorying the knitting like this:

    One Christmas, James’s first daughter (who is now a teenager with eco-friendly purple hair streaks) unwraps her first present. A … hooded mini-cape knitted by her Dad’s Mom. With a card. The card reads: “Long ago, when I had a little lump in my breast and was riding a bus numbered 14, I got a hint of how much I loved you. Got so anxious, I knitted you this. Not that the dark thoughts were winning. Rather, that knitting is powerful stuff. I knew that if I knitted this for you, sooner or later, you would come to me. And I’d be there. And here we are! Long live KnitKnut! Love, Zoomma.”

  • Julia, I still find it such an odd coincidence that I was diagnosed on the day of your last treatment. I hope I handle it with half the strength and grace that you’ve demonstrated over the past nine months.

    Gwyndolyn O’Shaughnessy, Duncan’s pretty good at knowing what I need. Sometimes he just pushes me down and lies on my chest and purrs. Sometimes he just licks the salty tears off my cheeks.

    XUP – excellent points! It feels like a lot longer than a few days already. As for James, I’m seeing him tonight so I’ll ask him for a grandchild.

    Rositta, yeah, I know. I’ve got my first appointment this Thursday, so hopefully we can get the wheels turning quickly.

    Deb, in the meantime I’ll hope you’ll share your impending grandchild with me. :)

    Marta, your version is SO much better than mine! It made me cry, but in a happy way. Thank you.

  • Em

    Crying on the bus = (usually) a seat to yourself :)
    I’ve been there a few times myself.

  • dear zoom, so sorry to read of your diagnosis. thinking of you xx

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