Nowadays, I rarely look back. Part of ‘living with cancer’ is dealing with the ‘now’. Being present. One day at a time. A little hopeful glimpse into the future. Not much looking back. The feelings and memories are too intense. But sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved. At one point I couldn’t see through the enormity of my situation, but here I am as lucid and sane and happy as anyone who is reading. So this next fragment carries on the story, and it’s called ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’
I asked my consultant ‘How long?’ and she didn’t want to answer. So I asked again. She said ‘Well, how long do you think?’ So I told her and she hesitated and then she told me something that I didn’t want to hear. So I blocked it out and I went to see my parents and then I went home. I sent a text. Some people called. Some people didn’t. Some people cried. But I couldn’t feel anything. No, that’s not true. I DID feel something. I felt something awful and alien. All I thought was, ‘it’s happening to ME!’
Anyway A was staying so we did things. We travelled around London. I laughed. I saw some friends. I kept saying ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’ Every now and again A would look at me and he would sob. And I would put my arms around him and say, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’ And of course the person who needs comforting becomes the comforter. I couldn’t cry because I thought I would never stop. Nothing felt real. Going through the motions. Terror. I felt like I was suffocating. Or drowning. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I felt like I would never be normal again.
And then A went home. And I hid. I hid under my duvet and sometimes I would answer the phone. And sometimes I wouldn’t. I spent days lying in bed, the covers over my head. I couldn’t read. I watched dvds but I didn’t see anything. I remember thinking ‘I can’t go on like this.’ I looked at people on the tube and I wanted to scream, ‘I’m dying!’ But I said nothing. And the days yawned ahead of me.
I could feel the presence of cancer around me. I felt it saying ‘Boo!’ and ‘Aha!’. When I imagined it I thought of a black heart because my original ultra sound had shown something ‘abnormal’. And I had looked at the scan and had seen that the ‘abnormality’ was in the shape of a little black heart. And I had laughed and thought ‘Typical’! That was before the cancer was confirmed. But I ‘knew’.
So when I think of cancer, I think of something black. A blob. A misshapen heart. A fog. A cloud. An abyss. A blackguard. And I think, ‘Nobody wants you.’ And ‘Go away.’ But my black heart cancer just sits there. I can’t think of anything else. I am scared but I don’t want people to know that. So I say, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’