That your eyeballs feel cold?
Of course you have. Everyone has. Shock and pain and grief have fairly standard physical manifestations, numbness chief among them. I should know, I’ve experienced it enough. But every time is new. And right now I’m numb enough to amputate my own arm without feeling it.
Today was supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment, to discuss what comes next on this cancer merry-go-round. You can read details below, but basically my forty-seven-year-old partner—my cop partner—is battling lung cancer. It sprang up out of the blue. Non-smoker, healthy. No real risk factors, unless you count the fact that we worked unsuspectingly in a radon-saturated bunker for years. But that’s a story for another day.
He finished the two-month, daily treatment, pre-surgery round of chemo and radiation a few weeks ago, so a new testing round commenced. Blood work, CT scan, PET scan, the usual. After the initial blood work and CT scan, a hiccup: the doctor called for an early appointment. This morning. Good news: the lung tumor has shrunk away from the pulmonary artery, and is now operable. The bad news: the cancer has spread. To spine, hips; potentially to the liver. Surgery is off the table. He (oncologist) does not know more at this point, still needs the rest of the test results, has no answers to give, and believes that this is the time to regroup. Questions? Good. We’ll start another round of chemo. Soon.
Wow. So few words in so little time, yet he said so much.
I am aware, intensely, viscerally, that this is not about me. It is not happening to me. And I am so stinking grateful for that that I’m embarrassed to even think it. Still, it is happening to someone that is deeply enmeshed in my life, someone I care about. Someone I never expected to lose. You learn early when dealing with cancer patients that it’s all about them, because it has to be—but I’ve momentarily lost my equilibrium. It will return because it just…does, but before then I need to come up with some new things to say. New ways to be encouraging, without being patronizing. New ways to cheer him up, without pissing him off. New ways to listen to all the things he will not say, but will expect me to hear. Because I’ve been his translator for nearly half our lives. This sucks. So bad.