The break at the middle

I walked through the hospital doors and inside something snapped, some elastic pulled taut for too long and it went ping and then my face was wet because my tears weren’t staying in my eyes. And I walked through the hallways and I thought it was good that I had walked that route to ambulatory care to get my blood drawn so many times that I didn’t need to see to navigate because everything was under water. And I went into ambulatory care and I wrote my name on the list and it wasn’t the women who are usually there who are loud, big, Jamaican women, it was the small quiet Japanese woman and when she took me in to take my blood she undid my buttons for me and then she did them up when she was done and she put her hand on my arm because that is what you do when someone can’t keep water from running down their face.

But before that, I sat in a chair while I waited my turn and I looked on my phone to see who was online and Peter was there and I asked him to send me something funny to distract me, and he said bored or upset, and I said upset and he sent me audio of Ice-T’s Pyramid Scheme from Paul F. Tompkins podcast and I held my phone to my ear and I listened to it and I laughed while my eyes kept crying and on the other side of the room a man with a prosthetic voice box said things that I couldn’t understand but it might have just been that I wasn’t listening hard enough and it had nothing to do with the voice box. And Peter said, you’ll be okay, and then I went to lie on the bed to have my blood drawn.

And then I was sitting in the waiting room and the volunteer asked if I would fill out the assessment form that lets your doctor know how you’re coping but she could see that I wasn’t coping so she didn’t make me fill it out. And then Lisa walked by and she said, are you okay, and I said it was just an anxiety attack and she put me in an exam room.

The doctor said, the marker isn’t even that good for you, it doesn’t tell us much, in Europe they don’t even tell patients the marker number because it causes more anxiety than provides enlightenment, and we’ll have to wait for the CT scan to see what’s happening and I said what if we don’t see anything because the CT scans haven’t been much better at providing information than the blood tests and what if things are growing because the chemo isn’t working but it’s too small and we don’t see it on the scans. And I wonder how something I can’t feel or see with scans or detect with blood tests could be so bad for me that I have to poison myself every three weeks. If you can’t see it or feel it, how can it hurt you? And my oncologist said, Do you want to take a break from treatment, Lisa said you want to stop.

Lisa sat me in the exam room and she asked me if I was seeing anyone. When doctors and nurses ask you this, they don’t mean are you dating? I told her I was seeing someone once a week, though that technically isn’t true because my psychiatrist is on vacation and then I am on vacation and I’m not going to see him for another month. She asked how I was feeling and I told her I was angry because I didn’t really believe I was taking the right treatment and that if it wasn’t the right treatment then I’ve wasted three months making myself sick without the payoff of getting better.

I stood alone in the exam room in front of a mirror taking pictures of myself so I could see what I look like in an anxiety attack. Kind of mournful but not in a really pretty way, just in a way that looks tired and would make someone feel sorry for me if they were around to see me. I wish I had been wearing waterproof mascara so it wouldn’t have been cried away.

I told the doctor that Lisa was wrong, that I didn’t say I wanted to stop. But I’m going away, so I’m going to take a bit of a break after this next one. We’ll have to postpone the next one because I want to travel. The doctor wrote me my prescriptions for Wednesday and asked me how my feet felt. Tingling or numbness? I said, a little but it didn’t last. It wasn’t as bad this time.

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About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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2 Responses to The break at the middle

  1. Baris says:

    Tough times. When I first had my panic attack back in January, I had no idea what was going on with me. I hadnt known something psychological can feel that physical. I thought I was having a seizure, I was shaking like hell and couldn’t even breath. I thought a shutter in my head would be just be turned off and that would be it. I survived that eventually, but attacks are coming sporadically still.

    What I am trying to say is that we have to learn to deal with that. Regardless of what’s going on with the treatment, there is gonna be lots of shit that will chase us, like a dark cloud. It will rain sometimes, no escape from that. I think sharing might alleviate some. Please keep up writing.

  2. Amy says:

    When we are both back from vacation I would love to visit you.

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