Top menu navigation

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Broken Brain

So I was on line for a movie tonight, and realized I was tachycardic. (Yes, I have a heart-rate monitor app on my phone. Doesn't everyone?) I felt faint and weird when I arrived at the mall (90+ degree days in Jersey = mall + movies). I ate an enormous meal in the food court, guzzled water, but nothing could stop that fuzzy head/chest thing, which was likely due to: 1) surprise pregnancy 2) rare encephalitis I'd just been reading about or 3) ???. And then I realized I was having a full blown panic attack, and I didn't even know it.

Me: Oh anxiety, you old so and so. You can still trick me, after all these years. How do you keep it fresh?
Anxiety: I am you, therefore I know all.

Anxiety's been a real bitch lately. I don't just mean the panic attacks at the doctor's office, or the woozy feeling I get when I smell alcohol wipes outside a hospital setting (but not inside, oddly). No, this A-level fuckery.

So, origin story. Pre-cancer, I was in Rome, then Paris, then Rome again, writing and eating for six weeks. I worked on a new novel, and decided to apply for a Fulbright. I wanted to travel, but with my family this time. I came home, snuggled with Matt and Pancho, and went to Maine to install an art exhibit I had been working on for months. It looked great! Everyone was excited for the opening. I was going to get to meet Martha Stewart at the cocktail party! Ahhh!

And then, and then. The spot of blood, the occult test (less fun than it sounds), the ultrasound, the appointment with the breast surgeon. She said, probably just a little papilloma, but let's do a mammogram to be sure. I had to miss Martha for the appointment, but I still made it to the opening and see everyone's reactions to the show. We traveled around Maine a bit, and I snapped this photo with the boy in Ogunquit.

And then came home, and had said mammogram. Had said mammograms -- dozens of images ended up being taken that day. The specks spattered across, like someone had merely sneezed on the film, those were troubling. So biopsy, let's do it now. Hmm. Cell phone number of the radiologist. Call if you have questions. I didn't know what meant. I went out into the darkest hardest rain I've ever seen, and even though it was a summer storm, it was cold, and I was soaked, and there were no cabs, and I didn't go back to work and just went home.

The next photo in my library is this, that Matt took after I came out of mt first of many surgeries. Double mastectomy. And then all the rest.

Suffice it to say, I was happy up to the moment everything came down. Very happy -- the happiest I'd been in my adult life. So now my brain knows, or has decided, that when I am happy that means destruction looms. And so I am not happy, I am scared. But then again, I am not happy anymore, so crisis averted, I guess.

We looked at houses upstate this weekend, and we found one that we love. It's tiny and funny and affordable. On the drive home we talked about the garden we'd plant, and the frolicking that Pancho would do and all the sleeping too. I thought about reading and listening to the rain fall and soaking in the cacophony is there only if you're quiet enough to listen.

And then as we sped closer to home I saw car wrecks in my mind. Once there I felt funny and restless, poking at a freckle (or is it a mole?) newly formed on my lip. Fussing with the new vacuum cleaner (is it already broken?) while thinking about seizures. What if a tree falls on us in the new little house?

What will be the thing that comes for me this time, I wonder? Can I predict it? Or will half the sear be the shock of it?

So pounding Ativan in the mall, listening to a meditation app before the movie starts, I try to unwind this. I can't get a real breathe, it seems, and that only aggravates my speeding heart. The lights go down, and finally I am safe because I am no longer happy.

Pancho's face is greyer now, and it will be 3 years on Thursday.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, and you definitely capture very well what the kind of panic post diagnosis and treatment is like. I have PTSD from all the cancer crap, which I wrote about here: