Cancer Chronicles, Part 9

Yesterday when I walked out the front door, the air was filled with smoke. I couldn’t see the trees, the hills, the grass. The day before, there was a fire around the bend. And so I reached for my N-95 mask, the kind I bought during the round of California wildfires, last year.

I used to (actually, still do, but I’m not wearing them) have quite a collection of boots. My favorite black motorcycle boots with the boot belt look at me, perky and upright, whenever I enter my closet for the next pair of clean sweat pants. Now, I have quite an array of masks: the ones I wear to the store, the ones I wear to the doctor, the ones I wear to be able to breathe when there is smoke in the air. The ones I wear when the person shows up to deal with the rats—oh my God—in the house, who are eating the peaches.

This is a time of the great unwinding, a time when everything I/we counted on is unraveling. And yesterday, when I talked to a doctor about the searing pain in my breast since the radiation, she said, “getting radiation was good, but getting radiation is like having an other worldly energy entering your body, and it will take time to process that—on all the levels: physical, emotional, energetic.” Smart doctor. I’ve been feeling that there is an alien energy coursing through my body, affecting my thoughts, feelings, moods, and it was helpful to have that normalized, spoken, named.

When I saw and smelled the smoke yesterday, I thought, “No, not this too,” but the truth is that it is “Yes, and this too.” All of it. The great unwinding. The loss of control. The feeling that an alien is inhabiting my body. The need to wear masks to go anywhere. The sense that this staggering time in me, in us, in the country keeps pressing and pressing for me, us, to show up. Move beyond the no, I can’t take this to: Yes. And this too.

To read more in the Cancer Chronicles, click here.

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