Categories
cancer life

When “What Are the Chances” Means Nothing

This week alone, I’ve diagnosed myself with three cancers: brain cancer, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

I get this way whenever I have doctors appointments. I had an eye exam yesterday, and during my last two eye exams I was diagnosed with a pseudo-tumor and a nevus of the eye, consecutively.

The latter is simply a freckle on the eye that one has keep out of the sunlight and generally keep an ‘eye’ on (ha) so that it doesn’t progress into melanoma.

The former, the pseudo-tumor, was a bit more…daunting? It presented as swelling of my optic nerve (we later learned this was likely an effect of chemo, as it occurred a month after my last treatment).

But, of course, to save the asses of the PHDs, I endured a brain MRI (LOUD AF), a spinal tap (which I strangely enjoyed), an awful medication called “acetozolomide” that made the simple task of walking up a slight hill nearly impossible, and the “Maleficent” of all neuro-opthamologists.

But brain-tumor testing yielded no brain tumor…thus, a “pseudo-tumor.” A term I only wish I had made up.

I am guilty of letting a few too many years go by without going to the eye doctor. I don’t like doctors, and I try to limit my visits to the ones that seem the most important (don’t even ask me the last time I went to the dentist). And with a make-up caboodle’s-worth of free contact lenses from my ex-boyfriends mother who worked for an eye doctor, I stretched those lenses to last until now. So…four years.

Which means, yes. The only reason I even entertained going to the eye doctor again was because I ran out of contact lenses from my ex-boyfriend’s mom. Irresponsible, I know. But I’m getting better and better about going to the doctor, and that’s all I can do.

Regardless, I was certain I was about to head into news of either a brain tumor, a pseudo tumor, or melanoma of the eye. None of which, it turns out, I have.

What were the chances anyway?

Next week I have to go to the gynecologist. Always fun. Always delightful.

And having received abnormal pap results in the past–although very common in women–I’ve been prepping myself for cervical cancer.

Silly? Yes, probably.

What are the chances?

Hmm. That’s often the phrase I’m presented with when I express on any given Monday that I believe I have a brain tumor, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

“Those chances are slim. Those cancers are rare. Besides, what are the chances you get struck with another cancer?

But that is entirely the point.

I have had cancer. And one day in 2008 I whispered to myself, “what are the chances this is nothing more than a sore hip?

The chances were slim.

But it was more than a sore hip.

Ask any cancer survivor and I’m sure they’ll agree. One of the only things worse than living with the fact that you have cancer is the feeling you had when the rug was pulled out from underneath your feet. When you’d been preparing yourself for the likelier chance, and you were granted the unlikely.

When you became the “slim” in “slim to none.”

You remember that always because it was the exact moment you lost control. You never want to lose control again. And “What are the chances” means nothing.

So, you try (however silly it may seem) to prepare for the worst in all cases. You ready yourself for brain cancer, and melanoma, and cervical cancer. Because what are the chances?

It doesn’t matter. There is a chance. And you will not lose control again.

Which brings me, finally, to the proper point of this post: you.

I’d like to ask you the question, that you–specifically those of you who’ve never faced debilitating disease before–often ask me.

What are your chances?

What are the chances that you or your loved ones will get coronavirus in the coming months?

I’ll tell you, they are a lot more likely than my chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer next week, and yet here I sit mentally preparing myself for the worst.

And there many of you sit at the pub, or at brunch, or preparing your normal Thanksgiving feast for twenty.

I’ve mostly held back my “cancer survivor’s view” of the coronavirus pandemic in favor of the more typical one: do your part, wear a mask, rah, rah, rah, stay at home.

But now I’m here to say this. I say it not as a Democrat. I say it not as a Republican. I say it without deference or feeling for Donald Trump or Joe Biden or Queen Elizabeth or Joe the Plumber: the control you might feel you’re having exerted upon you by being asked to wear a mask is absolutely nothing compared to the control you will LOSE in the midst of serious disease.

It’s the same loss of control we, as cancer survivors, felt in the moment of our diagnosis. The same loss of control we fear so vehemently that instead of looking forward to getting a new pair of glasses, we try to be mentally prepared for melanoma of the eye.

That loss of control then gives way to a loss of dignity.

Your bodily functions, however personal or embarrassing, are now charted and monitored and are more than just your own business.

Not being honest about your last bowel movement could possibly kill you.

The color of your pee is now of utmost importance and a matter of life and death.

At least you are in isolation, so the only people exposed/interested in the consistency of your bile are the nurses risking their lives to care for you.

It’s disgusting. Yes, disgusting. And humiliating. So disgusting and humiliating in fact that you can’t help but feel as though you’re nothing more than the sum of your creatnine and bilirubin count.

You’re a biology project.

At least when I reached this point, I had my mother and father there in the room to hug me and remind me who I was.

I can’t say this would’ve been as effective via Zoom.

I’m not trying to find out.

I’m going to stay inside. I’m going to wear my mask when I can’t. I’m not going to have a big holiday celebration.

So that my chances decrease.

I have control. Of those chances.

Not total control. But some control.

I’m not an influencer. I don’t believe my little rant here will reach millions. I have a nice little following here, of which I’m grateful. No matter the walk of life you come from.

But I have no delusions of how many people I can reach with this message. I do hope, however, that some of you will pass this on.

I don’t want you to die from coronavirus. I don’t want your loved ones to die from coronavirus.

When this is all over, those who still believe that masks did nothing to help, that social distancing was meaningless…I welcome your opinions. I welcome your “those masks were stupid” messages.

And if somehow, someday, it’s proven that these precautions were without effect, I will gladly listen to your ‘I told you so’s” and I’ll even respond by telling you how right you were, but how glad I am that we were careful anyway.

Please be responsible. Please be careful. Please wear a mask even if you think it’s pointless. Please reconsider your holiday gatherings.

There is more “loss of control” at stake than just the feeling of the wind on your chin in a public place.

And your chances of knowing this greater loss grow increasingly likely each day.

Categories
Blather Diary life

Covid Hostage

Jesse, Jesse, come here dear.”

Mr. H is back and hasn’t visited in a month. Of course, he made his reservation half an hour beforehand, and expects his favorite table.

Before his arrival, the hostess comes to inform me that there is no way Mr. H can possibly have his favorite table. It’s been reserved for a party of five all night, and Mr. H is only a party of three. We’re packed and there’s nowhere else the larger party can sit.

Of course, I already know all of this. I’ve got the floorplan and reservation books pulled up on my phone, I saw Mr. H’s reservation appear in real time, and I’m already figuring out a game plan.

Tell Francisco he’s gotta drop the check on table 70,” I tell the hostess. “Put a “reserve” sign on 71. When 70 gets up, I’m gonna turn the tables sideways so they’re longer. Party of five sits there. Mr. H gets his table. We just need 70 to go.

I pull Lucas, the busser, aside. “As soon as the butts are out of seats on 70, I’ll meet you over there with a tray. I bus, you wash, we turn the tables sideways. Capiche?”

It’s “capiche.”

The plan works.

Jesse, Jesse, come here dear,” Mr. H. is seated and ready for “the routine.” I wipe my sweaty brow with my sleeve and march over for my line:

Well, hello, long time no see!” I sing.

Ugh, I know! I was in Florida all last week, and then Toronto for a conference before that! I’m actually only here a few days but I just HAD to show these two my favorite spot!” He introduces me to his guests and I coo a “welcome” as I shake each of their hands.

And Jesse…just…what is new about your hair. It looks amazing!”

There is nothing new about my hair. There’s never anything new about my hair unless the color has changed, and it hasn’t. But I’ve got an answer thought up already because he says this every time.

Ya know, I’ve been wearing the bangs pulled all the way back and I usually have them in front, swept to the side! I’m impressed you even noticed!”

Well you’re looking beautiful as always!

He winks. I curtsy in my mind.

Our dialogue complete, I send three flutes of Prosecco and then head on to fix the restroom door, which, I’m told, has been locked from the inside again with no one there.

At this time last year, this was my life.

I’ve been putting off writing a lot this week. I wanted to write something funny and quirky and weird, but I barely had the inspiration to write at all, let alone write something that wasn’t totally self involved and self-pitying.

So buckle up.

The week started off with a bit of a disappointment. A disappointment SO silly that is doesn’t even warrant explanation. But what it did was it opened my eyes to how much I truly am struggling right now.

I’m proud of myself for how I’m getting through. On good days, I’ve been challenging myself to cook things, and work out more, and keep up chores on a “real adult” schedule. I keep my eyes open for job opportunities that might fit the bill…I look up grad schools and programs that might interest me…I write. I make sure I get dressed each day and leave the apartment even if it’s just to pick up a coffee or a diet coke.

But anyway, I didn’t realize how much I was slipping until this minor disappointment occurred and I was faced with the reality of more status quo. More trying to wake up early, realizing there’s not much to wake up early for and then going back to sleep for two hours. More willing myself to put on a face and do my hair instead of hiding it in a scarf or tying it in a sloppy knot. More trips to department stores to keep me from binge watching another Hulu series, where I end up spending money I ought to be saving.

And I just got so, so sad. It’s pathetic right? And then the feeling of being pathetic just makes me angry with myself…like just FIX yourself, Jesse. You have it so much better than SO many people right now. You have a place to live, and food, and people who love you and will help you. You’ve had ZERO issues with unemployment, and you are getting by just fine.

But at the end of the day, I feel dread that another day is coming where I will likely accomplish nothing. And more and more lately, I don’t try to accomplish much. I don’t look for jobs as much because they don’t pay enough and I’m better off finishing unemployment benefits. Or the careers I’d be interested in require more education.

So I look into more education, but it’s costly, and I likely wouldn’t be able to afford it without a job. And then I’m back at jobs.

And then I think, okay, suppose you did figure out how to pay for a masters or a new certification…and then you hated it, and found that you’d just picked something to pick something…because really, you were already doing something that you kinda liked before…before you were ripped out of your former life by a pandemic.

And then I’m angry. Angry that my life got uprooted. Angry that it got uprooted and turned upside down for the SECOND TIME in my life, this time by a disease that I don’t even have but MIGHT get!

I’m pissed.

In the times of “Mr. H and his favorite table” I was working a full time job as an events coordinator, and ALSO covering two shifts a week as a maitre d’ at a stunning Upper East Side restaurant where I left each shift with at least sixty bucks in cash (in addition to my FULL hourly wage–not a tipped hourly wage).

And yeah, I did it because it felt great to have money for really the first time in my life. But I also did it because I liked being busy. I liked to work. I liked the buzz of NYC hospitality, and I loved the people I worked with because we were all working so f**king hard, together.

I feel like a hostage of this pandemic. So many things hold me back from taking steps forward, and when I think of going back to work, not only do I feel angry that it can’t be what it was in “Mr. H” days, but I feel scared.

Scared of getting Covid19 and spreading it to my loved ones…scared of it further destroying my kidneys.

Scared because do I even remember how to work? How to live on a schedule? How to be responsible for things?

And then I’m like “let’s be honest, Jess. What are the chances you’re NOT selling “Holiday Pine” scented candles at White Barn come Christmas time?

And then I cry.

This is the daily routine. And it usually ends with, “why don’t I just binge watch something to calm my nerves.”

Thus a cycle.

I miss Mr. H and his stupid table.