Clara’s pointy toed shoes tapped a warning to her coworkers; she was in a bad mood, and her walk reflected that. Every cubicle she passed contained someone typing industriously, scanning a sheaf of printout, or making an important phone call.
The problem wasn’t her mood, it was her hyper-criticality on days like these. Anyone caught slacking knew they’d be in for a dressing-down like no other.
Clara’s office door slammed behind her, and the whispering began. Everyone was dying to know the cause. Was it her mother again? Had she and Brian finally broken up? Or was it as boring as the time she fired Stephen over the barista sweetening her coffee?
Clara sat behind her desk, staring into space. She knew the whole office was talking about her. She wasn’t an idiot, for chrissake. She knew she was harder on them when she was going through a tough time, but by god, all they had to do was be competent.
It was neither her mother nor her boyfriend, and her coffee remained as dark and bitter as her soul. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Clara herself had no idea what was wrong with her, only that she’d woken up this way.
She pushed herself away from the desk and spun to look out the window. She crossed her arms and stared up at the wisps of whiteness streaking the sky.
Even in her black mood, Clara was able to admit to herself that the current team was possibly the best she’d ever supervised. If she left her office and started firing people over dirty fingernails and insignificant typos, she might actually have to answer to the big boss for her actions this time. She blew out a sharp breath through her nostrils.
She put her coat on as she stood and grabbed her bag.
Pointy toed shoes echoed all the way to the elevator, and when the doors slid closed behind her, the team breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was pretty great to have a boss who knew when she was going to be too much of a hardass.
Just a brief update again, I swear I’ll be back in the game tomorrow.
I saw my new new oncologist today. I do not need any radiation or chemotherapy. Well, he was obligated to offer chemo, but the standard for LMS would involve a lot of health risks and at least 12 days in the hospital for about a 1% decrease in my risk of recurrence. I declined.
Leiomyosarcoma is a plain old bad luck cancer. They don’t even know of any risk factors, it just happens. It’s practically unheard of for LMS to initially present in the lungs anyway, but mine was caught at a fraction of the size that they’re usually found.
If I didn’t get CT scans for kidney stones so often, it could have been years before I showed symptoms and by then, my prognosis would have been grim at best. I never thought I would be grateful for kidney stones, but they have literally saved my life.
LMS has a 30-50% recurrence rate, so I will be getting PET scans for a long time, if not the rest of my life, but that is a small price to pay. It’s a good day today.
I’ve been slacking on my blog stuff, but lemme give you this public service announcement for people who menstruate.
If at all possible, schedule surgery as far away from cycle day one as you can. I was back on pain meds like I just woke up from anesthesia. It was horrible. I hate you so much, estrogen.
Also, my sweetie ordered me a present from Amazon. It’s a handy dandy pulse oximeter on a lanyard, so if I start huffing and puffing I can check my oxygen level and reassure him that I’m okay.
The thought chased its own tail through all the mazes of Andi’s mind, repeating itself relentlessly as it gnawed at her morale. Out loud, however, she simply chanted the numbers.
“One hundred!!” The triumph in her voice was palpable, and she eased herself to the ground, unable to do one more push-up if her life depended on it. She had every right to be proud; she’d gone from nine to one hundred push-ups in less than seven weeks.
The goal was arbitrary; she’d plucked it out of the air a few days after Thanksgiving when she realized that her favorite pair of jeans no longer buttoned. Andi hadn’t told a soul about what she was doing, but a couple of her closest friends and coworkers noticed that she was holding her head up a little higher these days.
The best part? Andi’s ex, who unfortunately worked in her building–thankfully on another floor–was on paternity leave after the birth of his first child with his new wife, for whom he’d dumped Andi less than a year ago. Daniel had no idea that Andi was undertaking this journey of self-discovery, and he certainly had no idea that she had finally found her way out of pining for him.
She chuckled, still face down on the carpet. He’s going to expect me to still be in love with him, but I’m finally in love with myself. It’s going to be a glorious new year!
Andi rolled over and spread her arms, stretching as far as she could reach. It felt good to achieve, and it felt great to achieve for herself. She chuckled again, thinking how proud her sister would be. Her sister, who always said that Daniel was all wrong for her. Well, she was right, after all.
She closed her eyes and reveled in her victory.
Today I went back to the surgeon for my follow up visit. I’ve been improving daily, but every time I have an outing, like to my primary care doctor last Friday, or lunch with Ian and his dad Wednesday, I’ve been paying for it with excessive pain later that day and most of the next.
Then there was my first post-op sneeze on Monday morning: agony. I’ve stifled them since, without fail. But as we all know, nothing feels like a good sneeze, and I’m longing for the day that I’m brave enough to try again.
We brought a walker because while I was confident I could make it there, I didn’t know how long it would take and how tired I’d be by the time we were done. I almost feel like my old self with the walker; it supports my right arm enough that it takes two or three times the distance for my incision to start hurting badly.
It ended up taking only an hour, but I’m still glad we brought it.
After I was all checked in and vitals taken and history updated, the nurse griped at me for using the walker while taking us to an exam room. When she handed me a gown and told me to put it on open to the front, Ian realized that she thought I’d had the easy surgery, thoracoscopic, with several small incisions and a couple weeks’ recovery time. I’m doing well enough to fool a surgery clinic nurse!
I saw both residents and the surgeon who operated on me. They were all thrilled with my progress. A medical student removed the suture from one of my chest tube wounds and the resident who pulled them removed the other, then he pulled the tape that’s been covering the dermabond on my surgical incision. I should have asked to see that to really see how long it is; I’ll eventually grab a measuring tape and ask Ian to measure. The worst part was him picking off the sticky residue; it was worse than the suture removal.
They all repeated “extremely rare cancer” several times and were happy to hear that I see the oncologist next week. There are no known risk factors for leiomyosarcoma. I just hit the cancer lottery. Why not the actual lottery? Who knows. Probably because I didn’t buy a ticket.
My surgeon said he’ll see me back in a month, and he fully expects to discharge me from his care at that time. I fully expect to be back at work well before then, albeit without the heavy lifting.
After the clinic visit I got a chest X-ray, and we were all done.
It is amazing how much better my wounds look without the sutures and tape. I haven’t gotten a good look yet, just a bit in the bathroom mirror, but I’m impressed. I still have a ton of sticky residue on my back and side, but we’re getting there. I’ll have to find some adhesive remover. My poor skin has been punished enough.
So tldr, I’m doing well. Thank you guys for all of your support!
When she leaned down to retrieve her bag from the passenger floorboard she caught a glimpse of movement in the side mirror. She smiled crookedly as she opened the door, waiting for him to wrap his arms around her, holding her close in that special way that kept her warm in the cold northern nights.
He didn’t, and she turned around, a question on her face. He wasn’t there at all. The movement must have been more of the falling leaves that blanketed the ground as far as she could see, except for her pair of tire tracks weaving among the trees.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and slammed the car door. A tear tracked its way down her left cheek as she stepped carefully around to the back of the truck to gather the grocery bags. Some days, it felt like he’d been gone at least a hundred years, and some days like he had just stepped outside for a quick smoke.
Two bags swinging softly in each hand, she trekked through the yard and onto the front porch, where she spun once, scanning the acres between her steps and the long dirt road to nowhere.
Not a soul.
She sniffed, and rubbed the tear from her face with the back of her hand.
As she unpacked the groceries she realized that she’d bought his favorites once again: mac and cheese and those stupidly expensive all-beef bun-length hot dogs. She left everything where it was on the kitchen counter and walked, head down, to their–her–bedroom to throw herself down on the mattress and sob and sob and sob until she was red and puffy.
It was the next morning when she woke with swollen eyes and a throbbing headache. She opened her eyes and stared at the thin strip of sunlight tapering across the wallpaper next to the bathroom door.
His voice echoed in her head, “just where it gets in my eyes when I try to shave.”
She closed her own eyes again, squeezing them until all she saw was the brilliant kaleidoscope of pressure on her optic nerves. This time, when she opened her eyes, his presence was completely gone.
She kicked off her shoes and went downstairs to finish putting the food away, but had to stop and laugh at the wreck the neighbor’s dog had made of her kitchen. She knew it was old Rider; the devil was lying underneath her kitchen table, tongue hanging out on the floor, shreds of fancy hot dog wrapper scattered around his swollen gut.
“I didn’t give the front door that extra push, did I, boy?” She laughed again, louder. “I forgot how poorly you resist temptation.”
Rider startled awake at the sound of her voice, and began to scramble guiltily to his feet, but she knelt to scratch behind his ears.
“Good boy, Rider. Good boy.”