Cancer Chronicles, Part 3

My friend Barbara accompanied me the day of the biopsy, since Matt was in New York at a conference. The radiologist had skipped the training in communicating life-threatening diseases and as he looked at the mammogram images and extracted six vials of cells from my breast, said, “you have cancer alright.” Shocked at the immediate diagnosis — I thought I needed to wait for the results of the biopsy — I devolved into a pre-verbal shut down. When I told Barbara what he’d said, she pushed back at him, the nurse, everyone she could. "But isn’t it even possible she doesn’t have cancer, she asked?" Nope, he said, it’s not. And that was that.

As we still had the whole day in front of us, I looked at Barbara and said, “Let’s go shock shopping. I am desperate to touch fabric, see color, do anything but think about cancer.” We rambled on Sacramento Street and walked into a store with clothes more appropriate for a twelve year old than for us. The skirts were too short and tight. The tops were cinched in to the point of cutting off circulation. The heels on the shoes were so tall that I was certain I’d break my neck after two steps. With the vision of us falling down the street in skirts that rode up to our navels in tops that cut off air to our lungs and on shoes that were insanely dangerous, we sat on the floor of the store and collapsed into laughter, after which we decided to eat lunch at the restaurant next door.

Therefore, in this photograph, everything on my body is mine, especially those mirrored sunglasses which make me feel like a heavy metal singer. Do you think there is such a thing as a 68-year-old heavy metal singer with cancer who can’t sing?

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