What happens when the thing you feared the most comes to pass? What happens when the words are spoken again, and they mean something about you? Malignancy. Tumor marker. Cancer. Pathology? I have lived long enough now to know that what our minds invent out of the tendrils of our fears -- these mental inventions bear little resemblance to reality. I imagined falling to my knees. I imagined myself curled up in terror and defeat. I imagined my heart galloping. I imagined a sense, even, of failure.
What I feared the most these last three years has come to pass. I have cancer. The how and where and why and what kind is still a mystery. First, it seemed that Craig and I had been ushered onto a tiny boat, maybe the size of a rice cake, and pushed off shore. A current soon carried us far into the fog. We clung to each other. We stared for hours into the fog, not seeking anything, not trying to see. We drifted. Jags of crying came on like squalls, passed, leaving us empty, dripping. When what I feared the most came to pass, I felt oddly calm. Everything slowed down.
When what I feared the most came to pass, in the hospital last Friday, suddenly shuttled for a chest x-ray, then a CT scan, then a procedure to draw three liters of beer-colored fluid from my lung lining, my friend Jo held my hand, locked eyes with mine. She watched what I could not watch. I gave over my body to the caring hands of people who let me know it pained them to cause me pain. I gave myself over.
When what I feared most came to pass, I walked into my love's arms. We wept. We looked around and into our lives. I thought, I have been given a heaven on earth. I have lived in paradise. There is nothing I want, nothing I would change, nowhere I would go. My bucket list is for more of what I have. It runneth over.
When what I feared most came to pass, I knelt in the garden and planted French tarragon, a perennial. I tended the flower beds. They look better than they have in years. I look at them and see the promise of creation, of beauty. I went to the greenhouse. I watered the tomatoes. I stared endlessly at the spring green of the leaves. I listened to birds. I watched clouds passing. I looked over at my love. "This is it," I said. "This is all we have, right now, right here." I knew everything I'd read of Buddhism to be absolutely true. There is no future. There is only this salad he has made for me, and these legs which took me on a long bike ride today, and these lungs filling with breath. This is all I have. I will not waste it with worry over tomorrow or regret over the past.
When what I feared most came to pass, my sister-in-law knelt down in her shower and prayed for me. My sister said "I am ready; come here." Craig said, "You are the love of my life." My friends said "Let's play Scrabble." My doctor said "I love you." Another friend came and looked deeply into my eyes, until I could peel the layers of protection away. When what I feared most came to pass, my oncologist told me it was a time for courage and hope. All of my blessings, they rained down upon me. They are raining down upon me right now.