One of the mind-blowing things about looking up at a starry sky is that you are looking at ancient history. The stuff that you see is so far away that it has taken hundreds or thousands of years for the light to travel to your eye. So you are literally looking at stuff that happened a really long time ago. The light you see tonight might be extinguished by now, or it might be exponentially larger at this exact moment.
Cancer feels a little bit like that. The doctor tells you that your worst fears are realized, that you have something growing inside you that would like to kill you. But no one knows how long the stuff has been there, how much it’s grown, or how far it’s gotten. It’s just a little flicker of truth: you have cancer.
The preoccupation with finding out answers to how much and how long and how far and how deep and how pervasive are shared by everyone on your medical team, and lots of science and careful thinking will be applied to the issue. This is known as ‘staging’, and it’s the first step in figuring out how to treat your new-found nemesis (which might have been around for a long time). It’s a lot of work, but it can only go so fast, so there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, lots of worrying, lots of wondering, lots of people encouraging you to ‘fight’ before you really know where to start punching. Lots of time to find comfort in percentages, but even more time to wonder how the law of large numbers will treat you this time around. Lots of time to reconsider why you didn’t do something about this sooner, or if that would have even helped.
Wait. Then wait some more. Try not to think about the elephant in the room, or the one inside your leg.
A major bummer for me right now is that I’m too distracted to read. It’s a tragedy, really. So I’ve been trying to escape the inside of my head by watching TV. The Walking Dead has been a favorite show of mine for several years, and I’ve been watching old episodes. The one last night had the survivors in a post-apocalyptic world reflecting on the fact that the deadly virus that has laid waste to humanity is in fact infecting each of them. It’s inside of them, active, waiting to strike.
So I switched back to regular TV, where I caught most of the original Bourne Identity film (2002). I’ve seen some of the subsequent Bourne films, so I was eager to get the back-story– the origin myth. Which seemed post-apocalyptic to me as well, on a personal level: this guy Jason Bourne joins his own life in medias res, suffering from amnesia and with no idea of what he is about. As the story continues, he finds that he is being pursued by people who are trying to kill him. Indeed, they have been trying to kill him for some time, and he realizes too that he has mysterious skills and instincts that allow him to evade and defeat them. It turns out that he is a highly trained assassin, but also highly confused. He is fighting for his life, but for reasons he does not yet understand entirely. And he’d much rather get off this train altogether, and not have to fight in the first place.
Cancer feels a little bit like that.