The movie version
In movies, the patient is ushered into a plush wood-paneled office. There is an air of bewildered expectation. Something is about to happen. The music swells, high violins over soft piano. A large desk, clear of papers except for a single folder, fills the room. Tasteful framed diplomas grace the walls. Outside is a peaceful scene, a grassy spot with a pond. We get a closeup of the ducks in the pond. The doctor leans back in his leather-clad chair, his fingertips together in an almost prayer position in front of his face. He closes his kindly wise eyes for a second and takes a deep breath. He has done this before. It is not easy telling someone I’m so, so sorry. There is nothing we can do. If I were you I’d sell everything and go to the Bahamas. When this is over, he will go home and pour a stiff drink.
We have all seen the movie. We know what happens next. We focus on the white-faced patient. Shock, resignation, tears.
Reality was not that way at all.
You know those little doctor’s exam rooms with the paper-covered table, the uncomfortable side chairs, the drawers and cabinets neatly labeled, the reflex hammer left out where anyone would be tempted to play with it?
That’s where I heard what the medical community thinks about me. The oncologist came in and sat down on a tiny black stool. I couldn’t take my eyes off her shoes, these awesome roman sandal things very much like a pair I’ve been coveting. I love your shoes, I said. She looked at me like my mouth was moving and no sound was coming out. She had a list of things on her paper: PET scan, brain MRI, immunotherapy. She ticked them off as she spoke. Finally, Soulmate asked, How long?
Untreated, we give you 9 months. In your condition, a little less. You might be eligible for treatment but it’s doubtful. If you are, you have a 25% chance of adding another 6 months.
No I’m sorry.
No kindly wise eyes.
No trip to the Bahamas.
Soulmate and I held each other’s hands. When the oncologist stopped talking we got up and rode the elevator down to the parking garage. In the garage I heard myself say this:
In 9 months we humans make a person. I too can make a person in 9 months – me.
Soulmate just told me this:
On Saturday, we are leaving the house for about 3 hours. Dress up. There will be food. It’s something that has been on my list of things to do for a long time.
Someone gave us a gift of this magical experience. Soulmate knows I adore surprises. He has talked for a long time now about wanting to someday give me similar instructions, have a surprise for me and just whisk me away somewhere magical for an evening or a weekend or a month. I don’t have room for somedays. We have a date set. And this magical friend who is giving us this (rather large and expensive, from what I understand) gift must have somehow heard what I said in the parking garage yesterday. The somedays are over.
In that parking garage, something happened.
When I said those words I spoke from a place very deep inside. Who was it speaking? I think that is the me I will become in the next 9 months.
My 50th birthday is 9 months — almost to the day — after my diagnosis. I can see it now. Dress warm, he’ll whisper to me first thing in the morning when I am still warm and sleepy in my mountain of pillows and fluffy white comforter. I have everything ready. We’ll be out all day. Then we’ll come home, shower and change for tonight. It’s all arranged. You’ll dress up. Wear those shoes you just bought. This is our day to celebrate you. And we’ll have a day out on a boat in the Sound. Friends will be waiting at a restaurant for dinner. There will be laughing. Magic. Friendship. Love.
A year from now, I’ll get my black belt in Oom Yung Doe, my martial arts practice. I am about to test for 4th Section, the halfway point. If I kick it over the next year — and I intend to (“up a notch”, not “the bucket”) — then I will make 1st Degree black belt in a year. That’s part of the Plan of Awesome.
Also a year from now, or sooner: dancing a tango milonga with my beloved, in the shoes a beautiful goddess sister has offered me as a gift.
In 5 years? TED Talk. Me. Talking about living.
In 20 years? Sky’s the limit.
My friend texted me today: You strut too sassily to have cancer.
Damn right. No more somedays. Only right-nows and by-whens. I think this is what living is. Me and my soulmate, the Wild Warrior Wizard. Making a Wild Goddess Life.