What Comes Next…Is Living: Mid-week Musings

August 12, 2010 at 2:11 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Cancer. The first time I heard it, it sounded like this. “The biopsy revealed cells that appear to show signs of being highly suspicious of what we would expect to see in cancer cells.” Although I can be dense at times, this was not lost on me. It was Doctor-speak for “you have cancer.”

Given my practical nature, my response was simple.  “Where do we go from here?” Thus began the journey of the past year that led to my recent surgery.

In the meantime, there were plans to be made. There were things to take care of and put into place. Not the least of which was the creation of a plan for getting the whole thing paid for so that I could get about the business of healing and moving on. This was no small task. But, I found a charitable organization that acts as a third-party payor for people with no insurance. There was a ton of paperwork, weeks of reviews, an interview and months of waiting, but I qualified. My specialist found a surgeon who would accept my assistance program. And, I needed to arrange for practical things like a healthcare power of attorney, advance directives, beneficiaries, and whether there would be someone to smuggle in real food for me to eat. I get hungry. And, I like real food.

There were things to consider as well. Things that were concerns. I have a family history of cancer and problems of the thyroid. Both my mother and her mother had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My mother’s was in her thyroid. Half of the women in my family have had all sorts of thyroid problems. And, added to all of this was the fact that I also have an autoimmune form of anemia. The genetic tendency for this also came from my grandmother who had it as well. All of these things were factors to consider in planning for my future while living in my now…which I did.

I went about my daily life which consisted of searching for a new career, working at landscaping and whatever other work I could find, tending to my home, spending time with family and friends, playing at my personal interests, and trying not to give too much attention to the idea of having cancer. Most importantly, I continued to focus on things that were primary—nurturing and developing my growing relationship with Scin, my relationships with others, and my own evolving sense of self. I put my energy into the things that make a life. The idea of cancer and pending surgery became part of the situation of life, not the life itself.

Like any significant issue facing any couple, the situation brought with it fears, insecurities, frustrations, silences, uncertainties, and opportunities. And, it did for us what any serious situation has the potential to do for any couple. It brought us closer and made us stronger. We laughed and played. We talked. We bore silences and frustrations. We worried. We disagreed. We ran from each other and then, walked back, heads bowed and arms  extended. We cried. We watched movies. We held each other. And, we fucked like teenagers. We dealt with and struggled with the normal day-to-day things that couples face. We faced and resolved financial woes, car troubles, and larger issues like what to have for dinner. We read books and spent time with friends. We did the things that put together strings of hours and weave them into days, weeks and months. We waited.
My focus was the same as it is in regard to life in general: 
focus on the good, on what is working; do what is in front of me; trust my instincts and myself; know, every day, that the degree to which my life is good and healthy is directly related to the degree to which I am willing love myself and others; and–most of all–trust that God is doing for me, and will do, what I cannot do for myself.

However, over the months leading up to the surgery, a strange thing happened without my conscious awareness. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe the optimistic Doctor-speak that had seeped into their language as the date of surgery neared. “Thyroid biopsy is tricky…there is a good chance it is not cancer…false positives are common.” The plan my surgeon and I laid out made perfect sense and seemed like a good one: take out the right lobe, biopsy a slice or two while in surgery, and take the left lobe [and the smaller mass] if the results show cancer. As the date neared, I came to believe I would come out of surgery with only part of my thyroid gone.

The day came and I waited in pre-op with Scin and my mother. My mother sat in the corner reading while Scin and I flirted. She entertained me with toys that had randomly found their way into her bag when her son and I were done with them. We laughed when my surgeon came in to write his initials on my neck and review the plan with me. I reminded her of what I wanted to do should there be any need for her to make decisions. I held Scin’s hand until they wheeled me to the operating room. The staff and I joked as they attached one thing and another and strapped me down snuggly. The last thing I remember was joking with my surgeon.

I remember only a few things about waking up. I have a vague memory of hearing my doctor explain that he and Scin had talked and he had removed both lobes of my thyroid. I knew what that meant. But, what I recall about hearing the word cancer was that it was my own voice saying it. That I was talking to Scin. I was saying it—asking really: it really was cancer honey; I have cancer and they took my whole thyroid? Right?

She was sitting on the bed beside me, holding my hand. Nodding. I think there were tears in her eyes, but you never would have known it. My sweet tender Scin. The girl who so often looks to me for assurance and strength, who calls me her rock, who needs to know I have faith and all will be well, was holding my hand and holding me up. Assuring me. Telling me they got it all. Sitting beside me, silently, holding my hand. My mother sat back, watching, letting this woman she is coming to know care for her baby. Safe with them, I fell asleep for a little while. Once I was asleep, they left to eat.

For a while, each time I woke, I reviewed what I thought I knew. Each time, Scin greeted my questions with unwavering strength and tenderness. I verbalized my understanding. Cancer. It was my voice saying this. My voice taking ownership. Scin stayed and mom went home. It was a long night. I was sick for hours. Scin was there through all of the nausea and dry-heaving and the bitching about being hungry and too sick to eat. She has been here since. She will be here tomorrow. She will be here when I come back from my post-surgery follow-up with the surgeon. We will talk together about the pathology results, the recommendations for continuing care, the things to watch out for and do or not do next.

She will be here for what comes next. And, I will be there. We will be here for the doctor appointments and the birthday dinners for friends. We will be present when the other is sick. She will be here when I find the right job, the one I have been looking for that was waiting for all of this to be done. I will be there when we have dinner at her folk’s house. We will be together for family holidays. I will be here when her first book is published. We will be here for cook outs, and yard-mowing, and cub scouts. She will be here when a major journal actually publishes one of my poems. We will be present for putting energy into all the things that make a life. I know this because this is what comes next; living comes next. Doing the things that string together hours and weave them into days. That is what living is. Living is what is next. And, Scin is the woman I have chosen to be with when the living weaves the hours into a day, and the days are woven into months, and the months into years. What a beautiful weaving it will be. Beautiful. And, long.



  1. Scintillectual said,

    Oh, my sweet baby boi. I have been so hoping to read this from your perspective. To know what you did after they wheeled you to the OR, to know what was going through your mind afterward, what you did and didn’t remember. You know how much this has scared me. I didn’t wait 26+ years to have you back in my life only to have you die on me! At times I have felt so afraid of losing you that I have literally pushed you away to try and save my own sanity. In the end, I am grateful you persevered in keeping me around—for I could never really leave. I think I can finally imagine us now, old and gray, on those rocking chairs on the long porch of the log cabin we’ve dreamed of, holding hands and wrapped together in that beautiful weaving. In the meantime, we’ve been provided with a fine loom to work on.

    I love you, my darling. With every thread of my being. I am thankful beyond measure that you will be here to share your life with mine.

    Always and in all ways,
    Your Scin.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sweetheart, thank you for this. But…you know I have told you for a long time that–in many ways–I know more than you do how much you love me…*smile* I know that all of this has been hard on you, that the fear has been overwhelming at times. You have, however, been constant and encouraging…even when your instinct was to push me away, push us into some box and cling to anything but this. I think, deep down and secretly, you have believed in us and all that we can be as much as I do. If not, you would not still be here. If nothing else, both of us have learned from this, from all we have been through, how to risk–how to stay present when every cell inside screams “protect yourself,” to remain and do so connected to and moving with the greater flow of things between us, to feel and talk openly. Mostly, to stay. To wait. To cling to the raft of what we know we are and can be even when the clouds rumble and the shore seems so far.

      So, we have been here–together. And, when I was afraid, you have held my hand and reminded me of the things I know, the things I tell you: that everything will be as it will be, and it all will be all right, that we are well cared for and we will be fine. Today, is another day for the living. Today is good. Tomorrow will be today all over again. And, I will be with you in that day. With you in every day. Always and in all ways, my life with your life,
      I love you,

  2. dykeevolution said,

    This was powerful and wonderful to read. I’m happy the prognosis looks good and they got it all and am sending the most positive thoughts your way. Your perspective and attitude after this is inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thank you so much for your kindness and support. I am enjoying your presence here and hope you will be around for a while…I plan to be! I appreciate you and your energy. Be well and know the positive vibes are hitting their mark.

  3. Andi said,

    You know this was really hard to read, but I loved reading it. I love the fact that you are both strong and yet weak together, that your bonds have solidified your relationship, and will continue to do so. Stay strong, show love & weakness, and remember that there isn’t anything you two can’t tackle together. You both are in my thoughts and prayers for a lifetime of happiness.

    Love you both,

    • androgynonamous said,

      Andi…Thank you so much for being here. And for your thoughts and prayers. We are both grateful to have your support and presence here; it means so much. As does the fact that you get the importance of strength and weakness as aspects of the same qualities that bond us as people; as you know, often the real strength is found in feeling the weakness. I have missed chatting, but have been a bit preoccupied and haven’t been in the twitter camp very much of late. We love you too and hope that you are well. We think of you and wish you, too, all the best. Hope to chat some soon! Li

  4. Blazer said,

    I am not sure what to say. I am so glad that the surgery went well and that they got it all. I am ecstatic that the two of you have grown closer and stronger having moved passed this challenge. Now it is time for the great job thread to work its way into this weaving. I love you both and I am the biggest cheerleader for team Li and Di!

    • androgynonamous said,

      I think, buddy, that you may be the only actual cheerleader…HA! I want to see the uniform!! All kidding aside, you are a true friend and I am better for knowing you. I also, as I hope you know, have been strenthened by your presence through all of this. I know you have worried and celebrated with us. Know that I, too, am in your corner–and you are stuck with me…and Di. So, when are you coming over…? LYB.

  5. Femme Gender said,

    Delighted to hear that things look good, and that you got your surgery. These things can either blow us apart or keep us even closer. No prizes for guessing you two will be all the stronger for it! May you be happy and well and here for many many many years to come. Much love to both of you xxxxxxxxx

    • androgynonamous said,

      It was so nice to ckeck in and find your comments! I, and we, think of you both so frequently and need to do better than we have of late about staying in touch. It means so much to have you [both] in our corner and feel your love and support. We think, often, of the things you are dealing with in your part of the world and hope for the best for you and those you love. I so appreciate you and know you were “with us” in spirit. We really need to hop the water soon!! Be well and stay in touch–as we will. I plan to be here for, as you say, “many many many years to come” and look forward to our comments back and forth. Love to you both, from both of us.

  6. Holden said,

    I’m really, really glad to hear you’ve had surgery and things are looking good. It’s brilliant news. Take care, both of you. xx

    • androgynonamous said,

      Holden, as always, it was such a joy to find you here. I think of you often and hope you are all well–we often send warm thoughts your way. You are on our minds a lot–especially lately. Thanks so much for your love and support. It means the world! Love to both of you as well. Do take care. We will be in touch, I’m sure.

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