"I ran into so-and-so," he tells me. "I told her about your cancer scare and she ..." but I don't hear the rest because my brain shuts down at the word "scare" and my mouth forms lightning bolts to send over the phone line and into Shawn's brain.
I am very immersed in cancer right now, the way one becomes immersed in a wedding or a pregnancy or cross-country move. But instead of freaking out over the difference between dahlias and mums (my one true bridezilla meltdown) I am freaking out over the language associated with my experience.
I'm told I have the good cancer. The best cancer. It's the cancer to have, according to numerous medical professionals who have uttered those words to my shocked face. And my husband, bless him, keeps saying I had a cancer scare.
I ... do not think that means what you think it means, I tell him. But the fact is that this cancer is happening to both of us. If denial (he calls it optimism) is what gets him through every day, who am I to deny him that comfort?
I started this cancer journey as my own cancer cheerleader. I was going to rah-rah my way through this sonofabitch and people would sign in admiration. "Look how positive she is," they'd say. "Look how strong and gracious she is being." But then people did start calling me strong and brave and I felt like a fraud. Do warriors cry big, snotty tears into their midnight bowl of cereal? Is it courageous to silence every emotion with emergency cake?
I am tied up in language. Do I have cancer or did I have cancer? Shawn tells me I had a cancerous tumour removed, which means I had cancer and it was scary, hence the cancer scare. (This is not me bitching about Shawn, by the way. This is me being confused and trying to sort my head out.) People are congratulating me on beating cancer and I shush them and look around fervently. Don't let the cancer hear you say that! Don't jinx me!
I have been referred to the BC Cancer Agency for further assessment. Thyroid cancer is a tricky bitch - if you only have a partial thyroidectomy, like I had, you can't see an oncologist until your entire thyroid is removed. So I've been locked into this weird limbo since my diagnosis six weeks ago. Do I have cancer? Did I beat cancer? Can I beat the next person who tells me that I have the good cancer? These are questions I hope to have answered sooner rather than later.