This morning I woke up from a dream about having skin cancer. In the dream, I could see my body--although it looked healthy and fine, free of strange moles and signs of sickness, I could hear a voice saying clearly "Everything seems normal, but the cancer is there inside you, and it continues to grow steadily."
This dream, and the fact that throughout the day I was aware of strange sensations in my body--sensations that I have felt on and off, to varying degrees, over the past few years--made me wonder if I am truly healthy, or if I am doomed.
The sensations are basically dull aches, and they happen all over my body in a seemingly random way, lasting no more than 20 seconds at a time. A couple of years ago, they became so pronounced and frequent that I went to Urgent Care, where the physician who saw me was kind and concerned but mystified, and I don't blame her, because it does sound weird and probably like I'm a total hypochondriac.
I don't think I'm so much a hypochondriac as a total and complete worrier.
When I had Sula, I became paranoid about my health, or, more specifically, about my mortality. Suddenly, I was afraid of dying. I was afraid of dying in a plane crash, I was afraid of dying of a brain tumor, I was afraid of dying at the hands of our then-landlord's son, who I saw angrily destroying a bike in the field behind our house and who I decided was on meth and plotting to kill us in the night. One day, after reading an article on breast cancer, I felt around in my right armpit and discovered a big, round lump. I found another smaller lump higher up from the first one, and then I found another lump in my left armpit.
I made an appointment with my doctor, who couldn't feel any of the lumps (they were kind of slippery and buried under some fatty skin) but who referred me to a surgeon specializing in breast cancer. The surgeon gently pressed his fingers into my armpits and thought he felt something, so he ordered some chest x-rays and blood tests, all of which came back negative. Normal. Healthy.
At my third visit with the surgeon, who was by now outright skeptical, I raised the issue of having one of the lumps removed. Would that be possible? Could he take one out and have it examined to make sure that I really was ok--to make sure that I really was cancer-free?
The surgeon explained that having a lymph node (he was pretty sure that the lumps were enlarged lymph nodes) removed is actually a pretty big deal. As in, things might not function normally after that. Drainage of fluids might not work very well anymore. You might really regret it, is what he conveyed, and which I believed: this was serious stuff I was considering. Still, I made the appointment.
I requested a few days off from work, because I wouldn't be able to lift my arm for a little while, and steeled myself for an experience that caused me almost as much stress as the thought of maybe having cancerous lumps in my armpits: was I doing the right thing, or was I doing the completely wrong thing? Would I regret this the rest of my life? Was I a crazy hypochondriac?
Meanwhile, I continued to feel the strange, fleeting, all-over body aches from time to time, and something like a hot sensation in my right armpit--hard to explain, except that it felt like something was happening in there. Something that shouldn't be happening. I continued to worry, to imagine myself dying in a year, leaving my little girl motherless, and finally it was the day before surgery, and then I got cold feet and I cancelled the appointment.
That was two years ago, and I'm still worried about what's going on in my armpits. I still dig my fingers in there a few times each day to make sure that a new lump hasn't popped up or that one of the old ones hasn't grown to the size of a ping-pong ball. I've been aware of the aching sensations more frequently lately, but I have to wonder: could it be caused by stress? By fatigue? After all, my bottom right eyelid has been twitching for the past couple of weeks--could tiredness have induced these weird feelings, too?
The bottom line is that I'm afraid. I'm afraid almost all of the time. I'm afraid of dying, because Sula would not have me to there to take care of her, to love her and protect her and be the mother she deserves to have, and I'm afraid of something happening to her--I am so, so afraid of something happening to her.
It seems like every day there is another horrifying story in the news--tonight, I read about a man who, after seeing a little boy's picture in the paper (the boy had won a kite contest), he stalked the boy, kidnapped him, raped him, and killed him.
I read stories like this, and I wonder, how am I going to do this? How am I going to ensure that my precious daughter lives a long, happy, healthy life? How am I going to protect her from the from the sick violent crazy people and the diseases and the hatred and the earthquakes and nature gone berserk?
I don't know, but I do know this: I have this time now when everything is more or less ok. War has not affected me yet, at least not directly, and I have my loved ones, or most of them. I have my family, and as far as I know, I have my health. I have friends, and I live in a beautiful world.
Right now, I'm going to keep thinking about those things and being happy.
Because right now, I am so lucky.
P.S. Yes, I'm totally motherfucking pimping myself here. Want more? Please come to http://roniadarc.blogspot.com