It’s never a good sign when you tell someone you’re about to see a therapist and their first response is, “Finally!”
That was what my sister Valerie, who has a Master’s Degree in Therapy, said to me at dinner last night after I told her I had an appointment this afternoon. She put her hand on my shoulder. Her face lit up. Then she turned to my parents and gave them a look that screamed- You’re next!
Here’s what happened.
This past Friday, after my doctor had given me the results of the biopsy and described what was happening in my body, I said, “How screwed am I?”
On a typical visit, it’s just him and his nurse, Kristen. On Friday, however, there was a third person in the room, making the situation feel that much more ominous.
“I mean, this isn’t the news I was hoping to give you,” my doctor said, “but I’m confident that hitting these cells with medicine they haven’t seen before will push it back. I just hate telling you to go on chemo again.”
A wave of relief rushed over me. “That’s good to hear,” I replied. “ To tell you the truth, last night I got pretty dark.”
“How could you not?”
I nodded my head and looked out the window. It was a very human thing for him to say. I appreciated it.
“Have you talked to anyone about this,” my doctor asked.
I told him that I hadn’t, and in fact, it was something Jaimie had suggested at dinner the night before. We had gone to our favorite Asian restaurant, and not even the Vegan Red Curry Vegetables with Coconut rice could cheer me up.
As he turned to his nurse and told her to make a referral, I felt a familiar feeling well up in the middle of my chest. Oh dear. Is it? Could it be? Yes. Yes it’s happening.
I started to cry.
I never cry. I don’t say this as a badge of honor. I think it’s pretty insane that I haven’t cried once during this entire process. What kind of psychopath am I? And obviously I needed to if the mere suggestion of talking to a professional turned me into the human equivalent of the emoji with tears streaming down its face.
The room went silent. My doctor handed me a box of tissues.
It’s interesting what truths arise when my defenses are down, because what I said next totally surprised me.
“I feel so guilty.”
My doctor’s face looked puzzled. “Why on earth would you feel guilty?”
“Because I’m putting everybody through this.”
Which of course made me cry again.
On the drive home, I thought about what I had said, and it fascinated me. The first thing I said was guilt. What does that even mean???
One of the wonderful people reading this blog, another cancer survivor, sent me some books over the weekend. I’m almost through with the first one. There’s a chapter that posits a theory that cancer can by caused by suppressed emotions. Ever the Gen X-er, ever the cynical comedian, my first instinct was to roll my eyes and listen to some Nirvana.
But it’s come back twice. And I blindly accept the fact that chemicals and radiation help me. Why should I arrogantly dismiss the notion that there might be some underlying emotional factors that are gumming up my system making it possible for this thing to keep recurring.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
So I have an appointment today at 1pm. I have no idea what to expect. Which is exciting. It feels like a step in the right direction.
And if nothing else, I know my sister will be happy. That alone is worth an hour of my time.