I’m driving up to Boulder with David. “Don’t Take The Money” blasts out of our open car windows while the warm August air swirls around inside. The hair I decided to grow out flaps into my face and mouth, for so long I kept it short.
What if the cancer comes back and I lose it all—again?
As far as we know, the cancer has come back. That’s why we’re headed up to Boulder for a biopsy of the largest and most worrisome lymph node that flared up in a recent, routine PET scan.
Report reads: “suspicious of malignancy.”
Where’s my eagle now? I need you, Mama.
Two weeks before this drive along the foothills, on the day John McCain delivered his “thumbs down” on the Senate floor (I cried), a nice radiology tech escorted me back to the dark room after injecting me with the same dye that Rae survived.
If one blasts Alt-rock while wearing make-up & and a good blow out does that mean cancer won’t want her? The hope is that the younger and more vibrant I appear, the less likely those greedy, rogue cells are to want my life.
No! Not me!
I’m twenty-nine! I have four young children! I finally woke up, sobered up, showed up, and now my Mama Eagle goes AWOL? No. I reject that. I’m not hitting those rocks. You hear that, God? Cancer isn’t a part of this story anymore!
I know I campaigned on the platform of You not being a dick, but I feel duped.
My small doctor sticks a very long needle into my pelvis and sends me home to the wonderful monsters, the needy garden, the glory and horror of a life in limbo. Every night I cry. I text friends hourly asking for prayers and help and funny GIFs.
A guarantee would be great. I need to know that my lungs and pelvis are clear before I can belly laugh again. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans drip off their trellises; I can’t even harvest anymore. My life on my terms or no life at all!
My faith is fizzling. I’m stuck. The swoop is gonna come too late.
I signed a contract.
I, Claire, will only eat organic food, take anti-inflamatory supplements, and live a holistic, healthy lifestyle in exchange for never getting cancer again.
I’ve made similar ones, before.
I, Claire, agree to do dishes, keep the house pretty, and stay limber so that my husband never leaves.
I, Claire, agree to feed my children on the most healthy (read: expensive & time-consuming) meals so that they don’t develop cancer, too. And so they don’t get fat; life as the fat kid nearly ruined their mother.
David and the kids didn’t have to sign it them. No, these belong to me.
The thing is, even the cleanest eaters get sick. And I know amazing women who have wandering husbands. Does food play a part? Yes, which is where our Next Loving Step comes in handy. Don’t you wish sometimes that you were God?
Instead of making peace with the free fall and flight we keep pens handy just in case an agreement surfaces that calms our crazy.
We believe more exercise, better schools, more sex, bigger budgets, and stronger borders will help us. Don’t those just reinforce our control? We sign the dotted lines, vote along party lines, wait in check-out lines for the clothing and hand soap that will make us a little less OCD.
Where’s the faith in that? I think faith is simply choosing to believe that God’s not a dick, and embracing the thought that no matter what, our Mama will swoop. Faith might also mean believing that even if shit hits the fan, we’ve got a Mama in a hazmat suit who specializes in biohazardous materials.
Don’t worry, She says while scraping poo off our walls. I’m here now. She hands me disinfectant spray. Yeah, but where were You before it all got so shitty?
The contracts we keep stored in our purses and basement boxes keep us enslaved, and afraid. What if I violate the terms and agreements and buy non-organic? Or don’t do the dishes? Or vote _______?
But believing God is everything God says S/He is? That’s brave and it gives me chills. That means we have to believe God is Good & Hard—at the same time.
My contract with my own cancer keeps me enslaved to expensive foods, supplements, and anti-inflammatories galore. Do they work? Yes, probably, maybe. I’m just not sure that the anxiety of skipping Chlorella for a week or two should make me pick at my heel. Stress is proven to feed cancer cells. Non-organic eggplants are not—yet.
So I’ll take my chances with the eggplant and celery and break my contract with the holistic health system one veggie at a time. Don’t tell me eggplant is a fruit, I know that.
I trust in God’s Goodhardgoodness and my own Next Loving Step. I believe that neither I nor anyone else can fuck it up. For all the free falls I’ve taken, not one has ended in anything other than glorious flight. Ever.
There’s still a week left before our drive back up to Boulder for the pathology report. David and I fall asleep whispering Scripture and Sufi poetry to each other with tears crusted to our faces. Every fear we thought we defeated the last time around is surfacing.
It feels like watching an alligator lunge out of the shallow pond that looked so still and calm before the zebra bent down to drink.
12 days until the pathology report.
10 more days.
6 days left. The phone rings around 3:40pm, the week before school starts. I really wanted to start the school year knowing…
“Yes! Hi!” TELL ME RIGHT NOW WHY YOU ARE CALLING.
“Pathology just came back clear. We didn’t see any cancer in that node.” THANK YOU.
“Wow. That’s awesome. Thanks for calling and letting me know.”
We cancelled the appointment, scheduled another FU scan for six months out to keep an eye on that pelvic motherfucker, and hung up.
Do you want to know something? Even if the cancer was back David and I believe it would’ve been Good, and Hard, and Good. They’re the same thing.
Cancer doesn’t obey contracts.
Neither do kids.
Or the stock market.