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04 September 2013 @ 03:53 am
on a dime  
here are the lists: of accomplishments, of rewards. of loss, of failures, of random disappointments. of calories burned, of miles amassed. of cigarettes avoided. of weeks in gestation. in this age a thing is not meaningful to us unless it can be quantified, visually demonstrated as progress, made into a brass plaque we can mount on our facebook wall. we'll embed it in the feed of even our most casual acquaintances--sometimes near-strangers who hold extremist philosophies we might find shocking, should we ever actually stumble onto the profile page of these people we sometimes spend entire days entertaining with links.

perhaps, then, this is my problem: a lack of brass plaques. i cannot quantify my accomplishments, or, again, maybe the problem is that you can't. i won't be reporting to facebook, livejournal, twitter and linkedin how many inches i've shed, how many ounces i dropped to regain with morning's first intake of breath (or so it might seem.) i get through each day, in spite of the ever-bright slash at my throat. cancer can do that: it can make things impossible to quantify. so i ran my paces, so i dropped my hip, so i pushed out my ribcage without involving my shoulders. so i made it through another day without retail therapy, but shredded my lip bloody negotiating the temptation. i wake up before dawn and take my pill. just like that, i just go on.

how's my health? i don't know. just as the doctor wouldn't use the word 'cancer' in my diagnosis call, none of the doctors dared to use the word 'cured' or even 'remission' in the months since. it's risky arithmetic. today i have questionable moles. i'm stalling on a mammogram. maybe this is cancer. today i have low iron. maybe that is cancer. can i have a facebook app to publicly quantify how the trauma still distorts my logic? can you hear the gaping roar of chaos behind the clicking of my fingers? no, because you can't even hear my fingers clicking. how strange.

every time ben leaves the apartment, i think: he'll die. every time i walk down the stairs to open the mailbox, i think: i'll die. my parents contract a respiratory virus; it scrapes their voices hollow over the duration of a 40 minute phone call, i think: they'll die, they'll die, they'll die. the stray cat who greets us on the complex stairs goes missing for three days, guess what i think? i'm at ground zero of a trauma bomb, but it's hardly foreign territory. again people draw concentric circles around me, partition me off, protect themselves from my sadness, my terror, my radiation. again people tell me: this is for my own good.


my cousin jim built a motorcycle. he took it out for its very first ride. he was in the subdivision, still, he was just a few blocks from the house. then a van, going too fast. an evasive measure, to save the bike. he saved the bike. my cousin, on the other hand, crashed his brand new motorcycle into a parked car. he hit his head twice, once on impact, once again when he struck the ground. a four-year-old child watched from the window of a nearby house. he said to his father: daddy, a man just crashed a motorcycle into your new car.

daddy, a man
just crashed his new motorcycle
into your new car

and so: this four-year-old child saved jim's life. his father called 911. the ambulances came. this was how jim's wife found out: she heard the ambulances. she stepped outside, wondering what happened. noticing that the sirens seemed close. walking down the street. walking to the scene. seeing the motorcycle on its side, first. seeing the blood, first.

that horrible moment: when you realize the ambulances are for you.

a shattered pelvis. broken collarbone. fractures in the arms, the wrists, the legs. two concussions--one as he struck the car, one as he slammed into the pavement. this horrible inventory. this perverted language of the ICU. he couldn't speak for days after the induced coma. when he did, what he said was confusing, at first. slowly he took form, recognized some faces, assumed others. my sister said that he recognized my father, but called her by my mother's name.

if only he'd been wearing a helmet. even he is saying this now: it wouldn't have prevented the crash, but it might have eased a few of the coming hardships. if only he'd been wearing a helmet. they say he'll be in a wheelchair for at least three months; they say it could be twice that time before he is consistently able to walk; they say best-outcome recovery could take more than a year. if only he'd been wearing a helmet. if only they'd had health insurance. if only he'd had motorcycle insurance. he's self-employed. wages lost for six months, at least.

how everything can change in a moment. at the ring of a telephone. at the sound of sirens. how your mind fumbles over the impenetrable surface of newborn tragedy, unable to find a hold, unable to grasp.

i leaned forward and bit into his shirt, tears and spit already mixing
i sucked as hard as i could, denting the roof of my mouth with the weave of the fabric
tasting detergent, tasting the memory of his skin, oh god
oh god
oh, god.
huge little footstepsverybadhorse on September 5th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
you are a beautiful writer.

i think we'll die all the time, too. at least twice a week, i convince myself that lauren is gone and life will break apart before i figure out how to hold it together.

i am thinking of you, and of your health.
selva oscuraanonymousblack on September 6th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
thank you, k. it's a good feeling to hear that from writers i admire.

it's strange - definitely an anxiety i've had before with fair regularity, especially when ben has to drive to an appointment in fredrick or something. lately it's just been something that's hit with a new intensity much more regularly - like i've had a couple weeks where i'm fighting myself to not run and block him from leaving the front door every day. it does seem to be a complication related to stress - it was at its worst around the time of my doctor's appointments (which... still got a bunch more of those, so we'll see how that goes.)
Kateariadnelives on September 7th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
I just commented the same first line without looking at comments first. I'm glad we all agree.
Kateariadnelives on September 7th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
I know it isn't the point, but you are such a beautiful writer, or a writer who writes so beautifully. Both.
Talons Moonhill_enchantres on September 18th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
Once I start, I cannot stop reading your writing. In and of itself, that fascinates me as I'm prone to easy boredom. Your words have such life, even as they relay fear and death, worry and stress.

I'm a helper, thats what I do, though at times it mirrors unsolicited and useless advice.

At 19 I was told I had a 40% chance of living, given the cancerous beast that grew within me. At 43 I have lost touch with many of my lessons from that terrifying time, but not the one of LIVING.

Please pardon my crass I know you little, merely an admirer of your talent with the written word. Screw it. What if I walk out front and get hit by a bus and die? What if? What if, what if... it doesnt matter.

On deaths doorstep, I looked out the tiny window at the top of my hospital room wall and I saw a lilac bush waving at me. It was beautiful. I thought of all the things I'd lose, of all the things I'd lost and squandered and wasted. I thought of all the unfulfilled dreams, of all my potential. Still, the bush was beautiful. I got mad and thought - so what, I'll never see it or smell it or even touch a blade of grass again. And I looked out the window, and Saw the lilac. No matter how I worried or fret, or wasted my time about what might be - the present was still the present and all I was doing was wasting the beauty of my view.

Its so foolish to tell, but in that moment... I found Me and I found faith in something more than me. I stayed in the moment, and found I was smiling over the silliest thing. I never liked flowers much, not one of those fluffy type - but the lilacs purple variations... the steady rhythm of leaves as it danced in the breeze... there was something so comforting in the simple beauty of the moment.

I wish you comfort for your fears. Freedom from your worry. Faith in YOUR moments, however few or many they may be, they are YOURS to treasure.
selva oscuraanonymousblack on September 29th, 2013 12:41 pm (UTC)
thank you for this, ms. enchantress.

yesterday we went to a conference for thyroid cancer survivors... there's this thing you talk about here--the moment when you decide to be a survivor. it was a major point in one of our talks, and i realized that i've had kind of a fragmented, insecure relationship with this aspect of the process.

i was given pretty secure statistics at the go point--the variant i was "almost definitely" diagnosed with (they wouldn't be absolutely certain until the surgery was complete, so that was sort of a flapping uncertainty for the three months before the OR) has a 99% survival rate (not 100%, though, and as the number of cases increase, the survival rate will probably change) and more than a few health professionals told me 'it's the cancer to have.'

which, you know... okay, didn't want cancer. at all. i am incredibly grateful that treatment methods for my cancer are so advanced and my prognosis is so good, but that doesn't make it not cancer. the emotional process still needs to happen, and i'm recognizing that i shortchanged myself on identifying (and feeling) the very real sadness and mortality fears my diagnosis brought up.

can i ask what type of cancer you've survived?
Talons Moonhill_enchantres on October 1st, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome.

Cario carenoma (blood carried). I had a growth the size of a quarter on my lung when they found it. 6 months, 3 kinda of chemo later and I'm cured. 24 years later and I am still changed from the inside out. I never gave back. I swore I would. I needed someone who would just sit quietly with me and not be afraid of me, of my disease. It taught me to stand by others when most run away. I guess I give back in that way. Not being afraid of sharing a last breath. Of losing some of me, by giving of myself to someone who was leaving. We dont give for what we get. I think thats what cancer gave me that's still with me - strength. Endurance. I think most of us are afraid of being hurt, so we dont give. We dont try. We dont reach out. When we face death, we retreat. I dont. Maybe that makes me broken, I dont care, what matters is the quality of living.

I dont think it matters what the numbers are. What the stats are. Sometimes it can be just a terrifying threat that wakes us, sometimes a brush, sometimes its bigger. Its not about the qualifications. Its about what it stirs within us. Fear is this amazing teacher. It reminds us we are human. It reminds us how valuable WE are, how valuable LIFE is. It reminds us to be humble, but to be strong too. Fear is this thing inside that lives silently, we muffle it, control it, redirect it and send it on endless detours to avoid it controlling us and making our lives miserable - but it lives. Like a silent stalker. I think being afraid, is a good thing. As long as we do not allow our lives and the beauty of living to become a casualty of fear. Life is beautiful. Each and every moment, a gift.

I am sorry you are suffering. You will be okay. You may even decide to thrive. Those I had known for all my life, met a new woman after my event. Some fell in love with me. Some were annoyed by me. Some, very few, smiled to see the real me shine. I think... that was my gift.

I wish you laughter, silliness, beauty and moments that awaken your senses and fill you with LIFE.