Playing "Would You Rather" for Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Playing "Would You Rather" for Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Recently, I find myself in need of poetry.

I have drafted so many poems in these last few days. For the little boy who was killed in my community, for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, for Brain Tumor Awareness Month, for the victims of the Poway synagogue attack, for my daughters. My feelings have been so large and complex, poetry feels like the only way I can adequately use words to express their depth.

Yesterday was no different. Yesterday was, once again, MRI day.

There is no significant change to be seen in our day-to-day. The same frequency and duration of seizures, the same useless anxieties, the same easy deflection and denial. But as the day gets closer, sleep is harder to come by. The mundanities of daily life are more effort. The gentle, everyday moments between my children and my husband make me tender and weepy.

Did you know you can cry from love during a game of, “Would You Rather?”

“Would You Rather” only ever eat frozen yogurt again, or only ever eat pizza?

“Would You Rather” always feel a little itchy, or a bit like you have to pee?

“Would You Rather” have ten perfect years with your children knowing that at any moment it could end in tragedy and heartbreak, or never see the clouds gathering and live without ever knowing how fragile and precarious your happiness is?

“Would You Rather” know?

The news wasn’t bad. I know, I sound all doom-and-gloom, and that makes it hard to believe. But the fact is the news wasn’t exactly good, either. After spending half a year agonizing over whether tiny dots on a brain scan meant tumor or brain damage, things looked pretty good. And now? We’re back to not knowing.

Which isn’t bad.

“Would You Rather” have a tiny, very slow growing brain tumor you can be confident is the most aggressive form of brain cancer and universally lethal, or, would you rather have a decade of radiation damage eating little tiny holes into your brain?

“Would You Rather” hear bad news and act on it, or wait and wait and wait and wait and wait…

The news isn’t bad, and the not knowing makes it much harder to formulate a poem. All I can do is write wishy-washy wonderings, while I try to remember to take deep breaths and act like everything is just fine, because acting like everything is just fine is the only way I know to deal with it.

Denial is a lifesaver, sometimes, and optimism is a choice I have to make again and again. It doesn’t come as easily now as it did when I was twenty-three and newly engaged and the existence of the life we imagined for ourselves hung in the balance.

The truth is, we got that life. We have three spectacular children, the youngest is going to be seven next month. Seven. The truth is we have lived so long on borrowed time, there is probably nobody coming to claim it. The truth is that while there is no statute of limitations on worry, there is also no cosmic collection agency breathing down our necks.


We’ll do it again in six weeks. The stress, the insomnia, the counting down of hours and the counting of seizures and the waiting. Always so much waiting.

So much can change in six weeks. Yesterday was a chilly May first, the first day of brain tumor awareness month, which feels like a mean joke. In six weeks the world will be green and fragrant and the sun will be shining and my children will be stained with summer sweat and ice cream drips and pool chlorine and sunscreen. Our windows will probably have moved from closed against the snow to open for the blooming lilacs to closed for air conditioning. The sweaters will be back in the closets. The school alarms will be off, at last, and chaos will reign.

It will be like a whole new world.

“Would You Rather” be happy and assume there will only be good news for the next six weeks, or steel yourself for bad news so you’re prepared to have your world shattered?


Fuck it. I choose denial. I’m not playing this game.

Maybe next time.

Brain tumor awareness months can just miss me this year. I’m aware. You’re aware. I’m tired. I refuse.

There’s a whole world in the next six weeks. I choose that.

I’d rather not.



Read more about brain tumor awareness here: This is the Hardest Part of Getting Treatment for Brain Cancer

Read my most recent post here: Rape Culture and Government, a #SAAPM microcosm

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Filed under: Cancer, Illness, Life

Tags: Anxiety, Cancer, Fear, Illness, Love

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