My therapist walked me through the circles of mental well-being and stability. Cancer shakes you to your core. How long it takes for you to get to your core varies person to person. For me, it was the Monday before my 11th chemo.
I spent the morning with my boyfriend, took my car to get serviced, and went for blood testing and a doctor’s appointment. It was the first real day of fall break and everything should have been easy and routine.
That was until I told my doctor about a lump under my left arm. It had been there for about a week and looked and felt like an ingrown hair. The oh-so-fun part about not losing all of your hair is the fact that it still grows back but very slowly. So when I shave, the hair (growing at a super slow rate) has a chance of becoming ingrown. It has happened plenty of times during this whole process. This time, however, the bump was sore and large and not going away. Well, of course lump and lymphoma are not good, so my doctor went into serious examination mode.
With a sigh of relief, he told me it was a cyst. BUT I needed to head to the emergency room to get it checked and possibly lanced. Then he thought about it and made a phone call. Although my cells were high enough for chemo, they were still low enough to be worrisome for this situation.
Mom and I headed to the emergency room. The surgeon on call took a look and said, yep. We were going to do a minor incision with local anesthetic BUT his partner was at lunch and that was who was going to do the surgery, so please wait an hour or so. Ok, waiting is one of my circles of hell – a deep, deep circle. DMV, doctor’s office, for someone to show up and pick me up, nah…nope…I start twitching my legs and sighing heavily. There are not enough memes on the Instagram world to take my mind off the fact that I am waiting and have no control over when the waiting is going to be over.
FINALLY, they called my name. (Side note: it is always a guessing game how ‘Kimberly Coyle’ will be pronounced in Uruguay.) The doctor, fresh from lunch and a smoke break introduced himself, looked under my arm, had me remove my shirt and started the procedure of the local anesthetic. He described it as “like Novocain at the dentist.” I’ve had Novocain. You feel nothing but the first initial prick. I have also had local anesthetic three times now in Uruguay – a bone biopsy, a lump biopsy, and now a drained cyst. Uruguayans have a VERY DIFFERENT definition of “you won’t feel a thing.” I felt things. I felt LOTS of things. My arm was over my head, my head was turned towards the door, and my underarm felt like someone was ripping my skin…slowly. I didn’t even see the draining. I clenched my teeth and started crying. Mom was hovering around my head telling me in English to tell the doctor I was in pain as the doctor was saying in Spanish that we were almost finished. Another definition that differs in Uruguay…time. Almost over was definitely NOT almost over. The doctor packed the wound, which really was no bigger than the width of my baby toenail, with layer upon layer of medicated gauze. A freaking baby’s diaper-worth of material was taped under my arm.
And I lost it. I could not stop crying. This was that body-wrenching sobbing. The type that leaves you drained with a head-ache the rest of the day. And me crying made Mom cry. Even the poor nurse was trying to keep it together. And the doctor was like “did it really hurt that badly?” No, I’m just done. Estoy cansada con todos. I’m done with doctors and shots and blood and chemicals and people telling me I’m almost done and trying to control the uncontrollable. And I most certainly am done with bad things happening to me. Really fucking universe? Cancer? But that isn’t all, is it? It starts with painful biopsies and tests. Then there is a hospital stay, low blood cells, weeks of shots, a port surgery, exhaustion, symptoms that suck. Now a fucking cyst under my arm? If I thought the world was unfair before then the world has finally broken me with this one. A lump full of fuss was all it took. The pity party is real. It is strong and holding on.
Socially – broken. Physically – broken. Mentally – broken. Spiritually – broken. I have hit the core.
And I really want to say that I bounced back and am now Kim again, but that would be a dirty lie and not helpful to anyone. Because if you are reading this and you also have cancer, this is what rock bottom looks like. You will feel it too, if you have not done so already. And you are not alone. The strongest among us, those of us with the most control break too. Because this is not something anyone was meant to go through. We are not meant to be told we could die. We are not meant to have poison pumped into us twelve times. We are not meant to be stuck with needle after needle. We are not meant to have hit after hit after hit without going down for the count. We just aren’t.
So, the dark cloud has come. I don’t really want to talk to people. I don’t really want to do anything. And certainly I don’t want to focus on other people’s drama. I want to be selfish and pull the covers over my head. My Sadness and Anger people inside my head are at the control. But there is enough Disgust (my original captain) to be so over my self-pitying depression that I get out of bed every morning and do what I need to do. And there is still enough Joy to be thankful that this happened during session 11 and not session 3. And Fear? He never really had much of a place in my head anyways.