I’m going to be vague because this is terrifying. Don’t panic. It’s only scary because these are my greatest fears:
- Alex dying
- People on the internet giving me unsolicited medical advice
It’s been an eventful year. Well. All my years are eventful. But this one has been eventful in a very grown up sort of way. Can’t lie, I’m not a fan.
So, three days after we said Goodbye to Zola my lady doctor called me. For the men in the room, this is NOT WHAT YOU WANT. You never ever ever want your lady doctor to call you. I’d had a hastily scheduled appointment the previous week to order a new IUD (which stands for I Ultimately Decide*) but now here I was, feeling terribly sorry for myself because it was the first day I’d go home to a Zola-less home, and my doctor was using a word that’s worse than your dog dying.
Six weeks later, I can give you a spoiler if you don’t feel like reading the rest of this: I don’t have invasive cancer. But holy shit, there were no spoilers for me in all those weeks of waiting. Just appointments and biopsies and tests and surgery and the looming possibility of no longer getting to make my own choice about whether or not I want to ever have a baby.
But it turns out I’m mostly okay. More on that later.
Here’s what I find interesting about this entire ordeal: It was like a testing ground for some major shifts I’ve made in my life. Because this was me after I hung up the phone:
Thought #1: Oh my god, I must have done something to deserve this.
Thought #2: That is bullshit! That’s not how anything works! You don’t deserve bad things to happen to you!
Thought #3: Oh my god, I’m going to become a vegan.
This was closely followed by an even more surprising thought. Surprising because it popped into my head without any bidding or coercion.
Thought #4: I don’t want to be sick. I like myself.
I felt that in my bones. Holy shit, I care about myself. I like my life, I like who I am, I like my body, I want to be okay.
Like most of the significant changes or developments I’ve gone through, the thought of changing how I treat myself as a physical entity seemed impossible, laughable, trivial, and unsustainable– until it happened all at once. Something in my brain just clicked like Neo in the Matrix training simulation. Except instead of “I know Ju Jitzu” it was “I’m vegan.”
Except not really
Because Cheezits**. I called myself (to myself) a Cheezit Vegan for a couple weeks, simply because it amused me. But I’m not really up for the pressure of the V word (though I shall happily order from their section on the menu and fall prey to all their marketing strategies) because the idea of labeling myself as anything gives me a Duggar Family level of full body shudder.
So even though I’m eating a *clears throat* Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet (aka no animal protein) and feeling a measure of relief that I’m slightly less involved in the destruction of our planet, I can’t call myself a vegan because– I don’t know, someday I might just need to eat some cheese. Who’s to say? I like to let life surprise me.
I’ll tell you this, though: It’s fun when we’re driving outside the city on a highway and there are cows because now I get to shout “hey, I don’t eat you anymore!” in addition to my standard “moooooooo!”
Here’s a thing I’ve learned
Some people cannot fucking handle the idea of another person opting out of eating things they still want to eat. I haven’t gone out of my way to tell a single soul (until now, hi, thousands!) it just comes up in day-to-day life and a few of my fellow humans have gotten all up in their feeeeeelings about it. But guys, I’m not judging. Have you seen my life? Yikes.
Being a Mediocre Cheezit Vegan Whose Hiking Boots Are Leather has given me an entire new category of thought to occupy my mental energy.
New thought #1: If I no longer eat kaasaggio robusto gouda by the fistfuls, then who am I?
New thought #2: Why did I think it was normal to eat food that made me feel bad?
When we were in Santa Fe a couple weekends ago I deviated slightly from my safeguards, ate two onion rings, and was sick for 18 hours. Touche, guts.
Here’s the thing: I view my life like a story with an underlying narrative that weaves my past with the future I’m trying to create. And I’ve come to realize that when I don’t learn my lesson the first time, the next attempt at the same lesson will cost me more. So I’m good, universe. I hear you.
While I don’t have invasive cancer I do still have A Situation and these unsettling words: “the margins weren’t clear.” But my doctor is giving me the better part of a year to see what impact I can have on My Situation through lifestyle changes.
You know what that means: My truest self– which is obsessive, prone to exhaustive research, and indefatigable in the face of anything that wants to take from me– is like “I SHALL HEAL MYSELF WITH INSTAGRAM MEMES, CASHEW CHEESE, AND ONE OF THE MANY MEDITATION APPS ALREADY DOWNLOADED ON MY PHONE.”
It would have been nice to get a 100% all clear from the doctor. But, if I’m honest, the puppet master in my head is kind of cool with it. Because that scary bit left behind is like a memento mori, a pebble in my shoe to remind myself to occasionally get outside my brain and remember I also have other body parts to maintain.
When I know better, I do better. I’ve seen this work a thousand times and I don’t think it will ever stop. I learn my lesson, improve in one area, celebrate that triumph, then identify the next thing that’s horribly wrong with me and in need of fixing. What fun! I will never be bored, with so many internal disasters in need of remedy.
One more thing that needs to be said.
I’m navigating this entire thing from the peaks of privilege. The only reason I’m not facing the removal of my organs and radiation is because I have health insurance, access to an IUD (thanks, Obama!) and a $$$Greenwood Village$$$ doctor who caught it early enough. I have a job that doesn’t care if I have to take time off. I don’t have kids’ schedules or priorities to work around while figuring out how to care for myself and whilst my deductible is high as shit I have a maxed out HSA because I like the tax break.
After surgery, Alex drove me home and we spent the rest of the day watching The Office on the couch. Privilege, privilege, privilege.
Which is why it makes me SO INCREDIBLY MAD that people want to defund Planned Parenthood or chain themselves around their buildings to prevent patients from getting inside (these used to be my people, by the way– but I learned better so now I do better) because I know how much of a toll this took on me– it was scary, painful, derailed all the other things I had going on in my life– despite having a savings account, support from Alex, and access to care.
What I’m dealing with affects lots and lots of women, trans men, and non-binary people. In America and elsewhere. Focusing on my home turf for a second: there are a lot of people out there right now working their asses off to achieve objectives that would make it much harder for people in less privileged positions to access an even lower standard of care than I received. People will die if they get their way. The realization that human beings in 2019 want to make surviving life that much harder for people who are already up against the odds makes me want to burst into flames and burn their entire world down.
But I’m supposed to be chill af now. It’s part of my recovery. So… fewer flames, more systematic efforts to destroy you from the inside, etc.
Which reminds me: Those of you who have the same reproductive organs as me, don’t skip your appointments! And regardless of your body parts, maybe just take care of yourself?
It’s also a great reminder of that quote we stitch on tote bags, bumper stickers, and coffee cups: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
It’s true. There were times I wished I could wear a sign that said “CAUTION: FRAGILE.” I prefer not to share the details with people I work with, etc. until someone said “where were you Monday, a job interview?” and I was like “I HAD A PART OF MY BODY CUT OUT OF ME.” So, yeah. We should remember everyone has their own shite going on, whether they breathe a word of it or not.
Because maybe I didn’t post anything about this on social media but I know it really happened because the bills are starting to arrive.
A Parting Note
Over the last six months– with Alex getting laid off, a bunch of other stuff getting messed up, losing Zola, and now this– I’ve come to suspect someone out there is putting a hex on me. Seriously, just two days after getting the (mostly) good news from my doctor I lost control of my car in the snow, spun a 360 across four lanes on the highway, and ended up facing the wrong direction on the opposite shoulder. Bad luck? Nah. I missed two concrete barriers, a semi, a tow truck, and a small black car whose driver I briefly made eye contact with. Sounds like good luck to me.
So, guess what: You can keep your hexes. This shit isn’t sticking to me because I’m channeling Gene Hackman toward (but not at) the end of the Royal Tenenbaums:
“This illness, this closeness to death… it’s had a profound effect on me. I feel like a different person, I really do.”
“…you were never dying.”
“But I’m gonna live.”
*Okay, it really stands for Intrauterine Device and it’s the reason I don’t have a baby and also haven’t had a period in five years. Bonus!
**I know there are vegan Cheezits, but I already did a blind test months ago out of curiosity and with rigor and reproducibility I can confidently inform you: Vegan Cheezits are sad cardboard confetti and real Cheezits are proof of a loving God.
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