Cancer Land: Party of One

I’m back. Back in the land of hospitals, sanitizing foam dispensers every 20 feet, and the world of us/them. Us: the sick. Easily identifiable through our short hair or bald heads, IV poles and gauze under pressure tape from blood draws. Gaunt faces, puffy faces, thin skin, slow or pained movements, assisted walking apparatuses. Them: uniformed or suited up with badges securely fixed to their clothing. Their heels clicking on the shiny floors that look both dirty from wear and clean from that bleachy smell. Pink faces, healthy complections. Careful not to hold a gaze with the sick too long. Smile politely, move on.

At least this hospital has real soda. Coca Cola, a caffeinated brain bump that’s good for the soul. Cleveland Clinic only allows diet drinks on its campus. Tell me aspartame is less harmful than sugar.

I sat on the edge of the bed this morning as I prepared to leave for the hospital for my consult with the radiologist. I’m living in a whole new world. It’s a new place, a big city. I don’t have a car so I either walk or take Uber, which I’m slowly figuring out. Still, I didn’t have an address for the clinic today. I wasn’t even sure if the building I punched in to the Uber app this morning was the right one. Suddenly, I realized how very alone I was. Totally and completely. 

We have a saying in our family:

“It’s okay to be scared as long as you’re brave.”

I made it up once before all this to help Elle conquere her fear of ski lessons, I think. We would repeat it in the car as we drove up the mountain. My part was, “It’s okay to be scared as long as you’re…” “BRAVE!” she would chime in. I sat on the bed this morning for a brief moment as the tears welled in my eyes. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be scared.

I reminded myself that they aren’t going to do anything to me today. It’s just a consult. But still, sometimes the overwhelming journey of cancer catches up to you. Sometimes when you look behind at how far you’ve climbed and how treacherous the journey, and then you turn to your weighted pack to once again hoist it to your back and continue upward, you stall out at weight of it all. It feels heavy, yes, but you also know what shadows can lie ahead on the path. It makes she shudder just to think on it.

The difference now is, I’ve done this dance a hundred times. When I stumble and get scared, I know that I’ve been here and that I can work through it. So when the tears fell, they weren’t for long. I shook it off and started for the door, taking a deep breath to the reset the flood of emotion. 

It’s okay to be scared as long as you’re brave.

So brave I will be and onward I go. 

Give ‘Em Hell

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