Cancer: none of us deserves the cruelty or the grace

I had an outpatient procedure today to check for cancer in my bladder and the upper urinary tract. A molecular text came back with high markers last week, and I could tell by my doctor’s voice that he was worried.

He and I are well matched. He’s a vigilant type, although much lighter hearted and lower key than I have ever been. Neither of us could have rested without the full-on cystoscopy with dye and x-rays.

Docs give the results to families in the waiting room while patients try to climb through the fog of anesthesia, but my husband told him that I needed to talk to to him or I’d never be at peace.

So there I am in recovery, surrounded by sick to critically ill people, nurses and aides and docs milling around talking about what all of us talk about. One guy was explaining to another how to establish residency in another state for college tuition.

All I can think about is cancer. The first time I was ever in that room I woke up to an 8 x 10 photo of a tumor being crammed in my face, the louse of a doctor telling me, “See, I told you you had cancer.”

But this doctor is different. He looks like Chris Pratt, for one thing. And, for another, I trust him to my core.

“You’re all clear,” he said. His relief was palpable. His confidence complete. Not a furrowed brow. Just a slight smile and the business like face of a man who had somewhere else to go.

He didn’t have to come back to the recovery room and talk to me. But my husband’s right. I would only fully accept the news directly from him.

I’m out of the woods. I’m in the clear. I’m NED. No recurrence. Back to a state of grace.

One thing about me is sure. I have absolutely no faith in the world, no confidence in health, no sense that I am safe from harm. I suspect some people get that feeling back eventually, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be one of them.

I promise that I’m working on it, trying not to pre-live all the bad news the world might bring. I try to not imagine being on my knees in defeat.

All I’m saying is that it’s hard to do. A friend in my group has just been diagnosed with her fifth cancer. A former student has just learned that her Stage 4 cancer has progressed. The man next to me in recovery was intubated and on his way to ICU.

Leonard Cohen’s voice, the voice of god, sings “Behold the gates of mercy / In arbitrary space / And none of us deserving / The cruelty or the grace / O solitude of longing / Where love has been confined / Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mind.”

I am so keenly aware that I do not deserve this grace, this mercy. But tonight the relief has set me free.

I’m going to lean back into the arms of the universe and be thankful that this time it was good news.

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