Monday, December 12, 2005

November 7, 2005 - Freaking Out?

I am reflecting on the experience of my cancer diagnosis – or my quasi-diagnosis, as the case may be. In a book review, I just ran across a statement made by the late Marjorie Williams, a woman who has written her own personal cancer memoir (The Woman At the Washington Zoo). When her doctor informed her he had discovered mysterious masses throughout her abdomen, she replied, "Is there a case to be made against my freaking out now?"

There’s a curious detachment reflected in that statement. It’s almost as though Williams is standing outside her own self. "What should I be doing and feeling?" she is asking. Having never experienced anything like this before, she doesn’t know.

I can relate to that. On one level, my mind registers what the doctor is saying. On another, I’m curious that I’m not feeling much. I don’t feel numb, exactly; I’m still able to go on with the normal, day-to-day business of living. Yet in the back of my mind there is the constant awareness that something very big is happening to my life, something beyond my control. It feels as though there is a terrible darkness lurking somewhere off in the distance – but for the time being there is enough light here for me to see. I strive for "business as usual."

I wonder if I should be feeling more – although it’s hard to know what to feel in this awkward, mid-diagnosis time, when life is filled with "what ifs" and precious few certainties. My mind has been going through all sorts of odd calculations, jumping to worst-case scenarios. Do I have enough life insurance? Could I still maintain my work schedule while receiving chemotherapy or radiation? Could we get by on disability payments, if I’m unable to work? How long would the church allow my family to stay here in the Manse, after my death? If I do have cancer, and go into remission for a time, will I ever get a call to another church, considering my health history – or will I be all but unemployable?

Today I’ve been hoping for a phone call from Dr. Lerner. He told us on Friday that he would review the CT scan pictures today, and let me know if he saw anything more than had been described in the radiologist’s verbal summary. It’s late in the afternoon, so I suppose there will be no phone call today – or maybe he won’t be calling at all, if he sees nothing conclusive in the pictures.

Claire calls up the stairs to ask me to phone in an order for pizza, a weekly Monday-evening ritual in our house. I guess she wouldn’t ask a dying guy to order a pizza.

But somehow, these days feel like less than living.

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