Well, my 3 months of waiting for test results is over. This time, it was genetic testing to ascertain whether the familial thread between me, my ancestry, relations and consequently present and future descendants includes an errant cancer gene. Necessary, I’m told, in light of when and with what I was diagnosed. Although I was privileged to have the distraction of an amazing adventure in France and Spain with my husband during this waiting period, I’ve since found myself once again in unsettling territory the closer I’ve come to receiving results.
You see, there’s always a Before and After with cancer. The Before, to me, was that shadowy other world prior to diagnosis when fear was cushioned by a child-like hope in divine benevolence versus the After, that moment when I was hit by the brutal reality of being told that I had the disease. Now, I had to face the prospect of being further embroiled in its tentacles and, at the same time, widening its sphere of influence. My logical mind told me that my own research into my medical family tree pointed to my disease being an “anomaly” rather than genetically manifested but there was always that other voice.
Consequently, I found myself returning to the past and that experience between pre and immediately post confirmation of my cancer, news that was so disturbing that its memory is impossible to eradicate. It’s like the branding of cattle except that it has remained permanently tattooed on my consciousness. I can hide it, ignore it, even forget it for a while but it comes back each time I’m faced with the results of a check-up or some form of testing. The only difference is that now I know how much the After can shatter the Before. I’m no longer naive. Ignorance isn’t the innocence of bliss. It’s just waiting for news, good or bad, trying not to second-guess the outcome.
Instead, by day I’ve tried to closet myself within my daily life as if nothing is wrong until I know one way or another. By night though, I’ve found myself staring at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. Thinking. Feeling. Knowing that my vulnerability or resilience at this stage is just a fictional construct played out by an imagination bent on assuming control. No point trying to bargain with God. The dice has been cast. And like before, I will inevitably learn to take that one tentative step after the other in my renewed quest towards healing, whatever I’m told.
When good news does come (my cancer was an “anomaly” after all), though it’s the outcome I hoped for, it’s like a sucker punch, unexpected and intense. I may want to feast on relief but prefer to keep myself in check until I can process the emotional damage in private. After all, though my stars were fortuitously aligned, every bullet dodged is a bullet faced with the repercussions being a peeling back of that scab that, for the most part, stops me from facing what I’d prefer to have left behind.
Perhaps next time I’ll handle cancer testing better but, for now, back to the warp and weft of life, with that lid put back on the past and an eye keenly trained on each precious moment of the present.