Over Twenty Years Ago
Friday, Dec. 23
My husband Michael leaves the house a bit after six. Kira is home with me today. We are going to go with some friends to the movies later. Yesterday was spent in limbo. Enough of that. I am in charge again.
Eight a.m. I make my first call to the doctor's office. Nine-thirty. Ten o'clock. Eleven-fifteen. The results are in. I hear a note of annoyance in the receptionist's voice.
Dr. S. comes on the line. His voice is a soothing gray blue. He says I have cancer. I am calm. Kira and her friend Erica are standing by me. They are showing me "cat's cradle." I am trying to watch while listening to the doctor. My heart seems to be beating out a new rhythm. C,A,N,C,E,R. He gives me his home number. He says he will be with me for the whole race. Unless I get sick of him. He will see Michael and me on Tuesday morning. More surgery next week. He says I can call him. I hang on to that. I hang up the phone.
The girls are off playing. I take the phone out to the garage. I call Michael at work. I try not to cry. But there is a howl locked in my throat. It will have to come out sometime. I say the word to myself. For the first time. It has become my word. I own it now. I whisper it to Michael and feel his face go pale. He's coming right home. I worry about his driving. I call my friend Nora, Erica's mother. I call my own mother. I put myself in her place. Could I bear to hear these words from my own child? I tell her I'm sorry. I really mean it. I hang up and let myself cry for just a minute. no noise. Then I go in to talk to Kira.
She sits on my lap in my father's old leather chair. Erica stands close by. That's okay with me. Keep things as normal as possible. We are going to fix this, I tell her. She cries. I try to gather her closer to me. She is nine years old. Her legs are long. She is almost as big as me. But her face is like a baby's. Skin so soft.
This is an excerpt from "Now Breathe" published by Whiteaker Press in 1999
This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a reminder to be vigilant. Get checked. I am so glad I did so I am able to sit here at my desk all these years later writing to you.