Top menu navigation

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Dark One

I have a clump of something under my skin on my upper chest. I'm, surprisingly, not worried about it. I know it's scar tissue, or angry knotted up muscles. My left side is full of that stuff. At my follow up with my onc this week, I mention it to her, just to cover all the bases. She isn't worried either, but goes down the hall to grab my breast surgeon to cop a feel. (This is one of the many things I love about my hospital.)

My surgeon thinks it feels like muscle, but wants an ultrasound to be safe. When I arrive in her office, after having gotten dressed for the fifth time today, her PA tells me radiology is full. She leads me into an exam room with an ultrasound machine.

"We'll just do it here," she says.

I change again into the pink gown, and wrap my sweater around me for extra warmth. This wing is under construction, and apparently heating is a problem. My doctor comes in with her PA and a new-seeming resident.

She apologizes for the icy ultrasound gel, but I can't feel it. She tells me to look at the small dark screen. She points out my skin, my ribs, my quivering lungs. The dark screen swells with all my tissues. "This is all looking perfect," she says.

The way I am sitting, reclined, gown open, neck craned, reminds me of something. Oh yes, I think. This is the way I would sit for my ultrasound if I were ever going to have a baby.

But I'm not. I realize that this is probably the only circumstance when I will enact this familiar scene. I glance at the others in the room. Their faces are all trained on the monitor.

I watch the shadows of my body appear and disappear. So much of this feels like a mean joke, with cruelly direct allegories to pregnancy. In both, a cluster of cells grows, though my body made family of tumors, not zygotes. Once chemo started, I stopped getting a period. I gained weight. My diet became increasingly bizarre. I became forgetful.

I'm not sad that I'm not having a baby. Carrying a child was likely not going to be in my future, even before this. Then I was diagnosed at 28, about four years after Matt was at 27. In our minds, we're not the best people to be replicating our DNA. (I know not everyone agrees with this.) And it's fine.

So what feels cruel is the twisted wrongness of it all. The alternate universe in which all these changes and activities are signifiers for happy normal things. My three month cake-only diet would be an adorable pregancy craving to laugh about for years, rather than a troubling response to chemo-altered taste buds.

Sometimes, when I see my reflection in the darkened subway windows, I feel like I see an alternate me. One who's grown up meaner, learning things the hard way, without soft landings. Her face is hollower. The darkness shows age, and weariness.

For a moment here in the exam room, looking at my black and grey insides flicker by, I am her.


  1. I too have been seeing glimpses of my alternate me, and she always takes my breath away. Who is that, how could that possibly be me? This is a beautiful and brave post. Thank you.

  2. Sad you feel this way too, but better with company. <3

  3. You write what I feel but can't put into words. Thank you.