Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A Telling Dream

Yesterday was a strange day for me. I woke up feeling really good. Almost normal even. It was a gorgeous day. I ran errands. UPS. Target. I called my HR office and discussed my plans to return to work next week. I took my daughter to karate. I cheered at her very first soccer game. I felt good. I felt energized. I felt like me for the first time in a very long time.

But then last night, I received some bad news from a friend. She had beaten breast cancer 3 years ago, but it is back now. I watched a video on Faceboook as she explained the results of her recent PET scan and brain MRI. The cancer is in the lymph nodes in her neck, which is where the recurrence was initially found. But it is also in her ribs. In her lungs. In her sternum. In her brain. Watching her video, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. My heart began to race and I felt like I was going to throw up. I am absolutely sick for her. I am sick for her family. For her sons. For her young daughter. And I am, selfishly, sick for myself. It's so easy to go from "I'm so sorry, Tanya" to "Oh my God, that's going to be me!" It's completely selfish to think of myself at a time like this. It's selfish to think of my own family. But it is somehow unavoidable. I think of her kids, and I see my kids. I think of her wife, and I see my wife.

My friend's original tumor was a triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is aggressive. It's a bitch. My cancer is not triple negative. My cancer is both estrogen and progesterone positive, meaning that my cancer can be treated hormonally. That does not diminish my fear, however. That does not keep me from comparing myself to my friend. To wonder what is in store for me 3 years from now. 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Beating cancer is not a guarantee that it will not return. Stronger and fiercer than before. I have not allowed myself to think about this.  I have pushed these thoughts from my mind.

Until yesterday. On the day that I was feeling so incredibly - so tediously - normal.

Unlike me, Ruanita thinks about these things all the time. While I've managed to remain positive - to block these disturbing thoughts from even entering my mind - Ruanita lives in the throes of the "what ifs." What if the chemo doesn't work? What if it comes back? What if she loses me? What if she has to parent our children all by herself? What if she can't be the mom our kids need? The "what ifs" can easily overwhelm a person. And Ruanita has struggled. I worry about her. About what this cancer is doing to her.

Last night, I had a dream. An incredibly vivid dream. Normally I do not remember my dreams. Or if I do remember them, they are so weird that they make no sense whatsoever to me. Last night's dream, however, was easily interpreted.

In my dream, Ruanita, the kids, and I were living in the house I grew up in on Holly Avenue in Owensboro, Kentucky. A huge oak tree grew in our front yard. The tree leaned slightly toward the house. It's branches spread out high above the house. The tree was tall and strong and thick. Ruanita was obsessed with this tree. She was convinced that because it leaned, it was going to fall on the house. I told her over and over that the tree was not going to fall. Somehow I knew this to be an absolute fact. I begged her to see reason - to realize that the tree was strong and that the tree was steadfast. I explained that the tree leaned no more than any other tree on the block, but she wouldn't listen. She could think of nothing else but the tree falling on our house. She was completely fixated on this tree. She was convinced the tree was going to ruin everything. So she called in a landscaper who dug up our entire front yard trying to right the leaning tree. But you cannot change the direction in which a tree grows. You can laze in its shade. You can enjoy the dapple of sunlight through its leaves. You can marvel at its strength and its height. But you can't control the trajectory of its limbs. You can't change the angle at which it grows - the slant of its trunk. The landscaper did no more than ruin the yard and leave a giant hole into which the kids fell over and over again.

The dream sort of deteriorated after that, as the beeping of my alarm clock approached. There was a weird thing where the landscaper spoke in Spanish (though her English was heavily Russian-accented) to Nicholas (who does not actually speak a word of Spanish). He would laugh hysterically and refuse to tell us what the landscaper had said. Ruanita would get angry and curse profusely at the landscaper for (seemingly) making fun of her in Spanish (though Ruanita had no clue what was being said). The dream ended with the landscaper trying to put an underground bathroom into the giant hole she created in our front yard. There was an issue with getting the toilet installed and I kept banging my head on the ceiling that was too low. So yeah..the dream did get weird toward the end.

But in the beginning, it made sense to me. Maybe I know - innately, deep down - that I am stronger than I think I am. That I may lean a bit, but I will not fall. That despite my slant, I will not topple. That I am steadfast and I will stand tall for many years to come. That I will not allow Ruanita's greatest fear come true. Maybe I know this despite her worries. Despite her fear. Maybe there is a reason I have not assumed the worst. Maybe there is a reason I don't cry.

Maybe I know something that she doesn't.


Post a Comment