there is before and there is after. and then there is the chance that it is all a big mistake and then there is again. again after that.
a still and condensed moment when i was thoroughly abandoned by my self. I watched it beat tracks off over the next ridge. i stood and watched it disappear. that’s never comin’ back.
this is what mortal terror feels like.
now i know.
i am standing on my parents’ deck overlooking the hay meadow and barn where i grew up. there is a doctor on the phone telling me the radiologist from Kalispell believes the x-ray to show i have a tumor on my lung.
i don’t know what tumor means. i think it means cancer.
it doesn’t necessarily. it could be a mushroom. it could be alice’s cat. it could be aspirated road rage. it could be a moment i swallowed long ago and in my haste to gulp the next moment i may have let the first wander unescorted into my lung. Top right. where it has made a home. making a go of it.
i open the sliding glass door, return the phone to its cradle and catch deborah’s eye while my mother is running water into a pan. i step off the deck. walk out into the yard. she follows me outside. i plan for a moment to just lie this away. tell no one and harbor the small beast in my chest. a privately fed monster. i tell her.
watch the blue eyes widen. she doesn’t believe. watch the moment before rise up and away. the life before ascend from view. i didn’t quite get to appreciate it. notice the color of light. the smell of the beloved cottonwood is gone as my body flushes antiseptic with adrenaline.
it feels like if i just tried hard enough i could step back.
my skull is numb. and i am so cold.
can’t remember it now- how before felt. i was so stupid before.
that was span> tuesday.
it would appear as a mass. a tumor. could be lung cancer. could be lymphoma. could be fungal infection. could be a hundred variations of long-named things that i will NOT look up on google. that i implore you all not to look up.
a tall young man with the calmness of someone who has spent thousands of earnest hours alone studying text books, tells me that it would be atypical, given my age, for it to be lung cancer. and yet possible. i smoked cigarettes for 12 years. not very long in the lung cancer world. please understand it is very hard to forgive myself this stupidity right now. but there you have it. i was self-destructive for a bit. then addicted. then it became an identity. a reward. a recourse.
all these things, the ways in which a body may react to itself or to the outside world, the pathologies and conditions that may cause a mass; many of them can be treated. some can not.
i am sitting in the small airless room with deborah and favor to my left. i ask him what the prognosis is if it is lung cancer. i ask him with such calmness i think. i am noticing the evenness in my voice.
1 to 2 years he says. worst case. and i am so relieved. i smile.
i had thought 3 months.
i hear deborah make a small gasp.
to me it means not yet. it means i could still walk and talk i could still be a part of the family of things for <ome time more. there is space and distance. air between objects. joy at the improbability of being.
there is the unfinished documentary. there are things i can still write. there is time for my mind to settle and understand the horrible beauty of this.
to insist that this is not about horror. it is not about dying. it is about life. it is about the beauty of loving other human beings. of being loved. it is about art. even this.
lying in hotel bed in Sandpoint Idaho at 4am. i think of it. remember. and the terror begins. my heart pounds. stomach growls.
it has been two days. knowing. i can’t eat. everything is tolerable except this. this need to run when there is no place to run to.
this need for action. my body demanding effort.
i am displaced. terror is the great mover. i begin to whisper “i am still myself.” trying to conjure who i remember. the width of my shoulders. the way it feels to laugh. the people who love me. i come back a little bit.
i have never known such fear.
this is the unfortunate design i think. my parents’ australian shepherd has three legs- one sacrificed to the joy of scaring cars away. but he doesn’t know. still likes to chase cars. i do not think he considers the mystery of the missing leg.
it is unfortunate to be sentient and in a fallible body. a vulnerable body. to see it coming. slowly or quickly. we can’t take our eyes off that horizon. i am particularly guilty of gazing that direction. but that’s all this is really. a matter of timing. later or sooner.
they come to my house. bring food. all these people. tears in their eyes. beer under their arms. such excellent creatures all of us. it is better when i tell. when i talk. when i can ask them to help me remember i am more than the pathology.
i ask them to try their hand at faith healing. pull my shirt down at the collar on the right side. reveal the place i have seen in xray. these are the hands i want to heal me. not strangers. not the impersonal touch of doctors. this is what i believe in. i invite them. she places one hand on my chest. the other on my back. forehead to forehead. and minutes pass by. i wonder how i can ask for this much. i wonder at the prosperity of being this loved. over and over people put their hands on my body. remind me i am in this body. in this life. part of this beautiful community. this family. they heal me of terror. and who knows what else.
i have long believed that loving is the anti-death. the moment of celebration. the absolute thanksgiving for the life given. the life shared. so i ask them all to love for me. themselves or others. and dedicate me part of it to my continuation. to remind the universe that i am so very grateful for every moment. to ask for a few more. jenny jenkins says she will announce it to her audience before her band plays.
i am also on the prayer chain at the eureka first baptist church.
i am not turning any of it down.
tomorrow morning is a biopsy. i will be given a drug that will induce amnesia. which i find very interesting. if i have it once but never again does it find accounting somewhere in my soul? the trauma of a camera up my nose. the words they might use to describe what they see. i will hear them make note of the beast. but not remember. will my body know anyway?
my mother believes it will be okay. i think she might be a bit of a witch. this has more pull than many other things.
they may know something right then. or it may take 2 or 3 days. i will send updates.
thank you for being. please feel free to participate in the anti-death program as you are able. or however you celebrate this life. please come by and try your hand at healing.
please help deborah.
love to you all.