Complications of Cancer and Coronavirus

Complications of Cancer and Coronavirus
Preparing to go into the war zone that is the hospital, for Mike's radiation treatments


Mike spent a few days in the hospital this week. His brain was bleeding. This isn’t exactly to say cancer treatment isn’t going well. It’s not going badly. But there have been complications.

With clotting problems, and bleeding problems, and balance problems, and random fevers, and bad medication reactions, and the fact that we’re doing all of this during a global fucking pandemic, things have been hard.

They get harder each time he falls. Each time a doctor neglects to keep us entirely in the loop of treatment plans. Each time one of Mike’s medical providers tests positive for COVID-19.

They get harder when I take a minute to breathe during the drive and for some reason a pregnancy crisis center billboard reminds me of my sister, and that she’s dead, and that my family might as well be on Mars for as close as they can get to me.

I don’t have time to grieve. There is always another crisis. Or maybe there isn’t, maybe I see crises where there aren’t any because it’s easier than grief. But bleeding brains and extra surgeries aren’t figments of my imagination.

It is not my imagination when the nurse on the other end of the phone call tells me a confirmed COVID patient has repeatedly come into my home and removed his mask while he cared for my husband.

Mike’s most recent stay in the hospital was harrowing. He was alone, exhausted to confusion, in pain. And I was sitting in our home, my phone always to my ear, calling and calling and calling and demanding answers that didn’t exist. Inventing solutions that didn’t exist. Breaking rules meant to keep me safe, because my own safety can go to Hell if my husband needs me.

My fingers twitch with the need to write poems, but without time to breathe, how do the poems come out?

“You need someone to talk to,” my therapist said in our last call. “I have you,” I replied, and I could picture her head wobble in that way she has when she doesn’t want to agree with me. “You need somebody else, too,” she said.

I’m tired of being told I’m strong. My back aches. My feet are swollen. I haven’t slept a real night since February,

And the hospital is apocalyptic.

“It’s like the end of the world,” a woman said to me in the frozen food aisle of Costco, what feels like a lifetime ago, before Mike’s surgery. I didn’t think it seemed like the end of the world. I didn’t tell her that if it was the end of the world she should be buying pallets of charcoal instead of fish sticks. I just got in line and impulse bought a set of pretty bottles of hand soap, which smell like happiness instead of the apocalypse.

And sometimes, I sit in my car alone and I repeat to myself, “The world isn’t ending, the world isn’t ending, the world isn’t ending,” until my vision regains depth and my heart slows down.

The world isn’t ending. Mike is here. He is home. Even if we can’t sleep, we aren’t sleeping in the same bed, together.

I dreamed the hospital called me to ask me if I thought I was suffering from denial. They didn’t ask about what. I wanted to tell them my sister was dead. Denial is a luxury I can’t afford anymore.

I wanted to tell them me and Mike have plans for when this ends, but we don’t. We have no plans at all. We just want to breathe.

What do you plan for when it feels like the end of the world?

How do you know when the next world is ready to begin?



Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era is out now!



You can read more about glioblastoma and COVID-19 here: Brain Surgery in the era of Coronavirus

Read my most recent post here: Thinking of my Late Sister, On My Birthday

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