In June 2017, before my Cancer is diagnosed, I sense, somatically, a vague dread. The bad dreams began. Constant, nebulous bad. For example, last night I dream of my ex-husband, he whom I haven’t seen since 2008. Howard. The early adopter to opioid addiction. Poor misunderstood Howard, who is unwittingly aided to his death by well-meaning but misguided enablers. The enablers say I’m “mean” for calling him a drug addict. If they only knew, they wouldn’t sleep at night.
In the dream, in a normal unhurried voice I say, “Baby, I’m concerned about you.” With terrifying speed Howard responds by ripping off all his clothes. Stark naked he runs, then leaps out the open window. A suicidal dry dive. I’m in shock. I don’t want to see the broken body, the blood, (his blood,) his tortured, mangled bones. I fumble with my old blue iPhone5. Need 911. My fingers trembling, I can’t find the digits. Phone’s not connected. Of course it’s not, I have an iPhone 7. I can’t get through. Then he re-enters the room, blood streaming into his eyes. Howard grabs me roughly by the shoulders. Shaking me –
Bad dreams plague me nightly, though my doctor says they are not a known side effect. My radiologist hit the nail on the head when he says, “They’re a side effect of stress.” Reoccurring motifs include being unable to communicate, unable to get through on a phone, not able to speak, not able to scream. Frustration dreams. Anxiety dreams. Dark dreams. They’re scary.
The team, my doctor and radiologists discuss my disturbing dreams at their Monday staff meeting. “Are they still every night?” Ray asks me yesterday. Unfortunately yes. And I try, I say feebly, to thwart them, by listening to uplifting hypnotic YouTube shorts. Stuff like “Heal and get well,” or “Claim your future.” The trance state is natural and easy for me to find. While I am eased by the response to my GoFundMe, Thank you everyone for your support – your donations – your posts and reposts help me ever so much. I feel slightly guilty for persistent nightmares.
In the hierarchy of pain, surgeries are more painful than the cancer. Biopsies are more painful than the surgeries. In my case, the second to last biopsy killed some tissue that forms a hard interior scar, spooking the doctors into ordering a rush third MRI. The need for speed sparks the GoFundMe. We can’t wait for my insurance to process coverage.
The MRI shows a thick hard spot, the last needle biopsy reveals to be benign dead fat tissue. Ironically, the pellet of scar is the reaction of my breast to the trauma of biopsies. Rubbing Aquafor on my chest, the thin remaining breast tissue easily discloses what they worried about. It feels sensitive, foreign and tough to the touch. I routinely hug my morning mug to heart, hoping the warmth might dissipate, at least a little, the necrosis. Two mornings ago, my hand shook when the heat was just a little too high. I end up spilling piping hot tea on my lap, my legs, my shirt.
The same day of the Howard dream I shop at Lassen’s after my radiation treatment. (I combat depression is eating nice food.) Spiced baked oranges. Ginger (organic) chicken soup. Saffron yellow rice. I’m looking intently at the chocolate I’m not supposed to eat. I’m getting it for a friend when I hear my name. “Hey Kumari, how’s it going?” A deep male voice asks. I turn reflexively, caught red-handed pursuing expensive fair trade chocolate.
“Fine, thanks” I say. My body language relaxed until I realize the speaker is my first ex-husband, who is not my friend. As the last time I spoke to him was some time in 2002, I don’t recognize his voice. He scowls as he places his purchases on the check-out. I don’t know what he’s pissed about. I’m not about to find out. He’s a narcissist I tell you. Bona fide.
I have no desire to discuss my Cancer with sociopathic ex #1. As quickly as I acknowledge him I turn back to the chocolates. Slipping a bar into my basket I walk to the back of the store, even though I had been just about ready to pay. Wow. A grown woman in her 50s reduced to hiding in front of the frozen meats. Pathetic. I call a friend. “If it’s not a good time you can hang up and I will pretend I’m talking to you,” I say, wondering what are the chances of dreaming about one ex (divorce finalized in 2009) and running into another (divorce finalized in 2002) both in the same day? Is Cancer a magnet for bad luck? Or is this some kind of hokey cosmic life review?
Twenty minutes later. To my relief my old car turns over. At nearly 300,000 miles I ought to be on an ad for Honda. This thing takes me where I need to go. Safely home, I’m currently reading 4 hard-copy books. The sickness gives me lots of excuse for going stupid; I don’t want to fall apart. “The English Patient” frustrates me. The unnamed characters. Their grotesqueness – a burned man, the shell-shocked nurse, the thumb-less thief, probably fuel my anxiety. “The Tudors,” by de Lisle, is comforting in its blandness. “The Emperor of all Maladies” is painfully hard to read, a history and expose’ on Cancer. “The Fire and The Fury,” which just arrived might be an easier diversion.
Is it just possible the stuff I fill my head with effects my sleep? I mean the Tudors didn’t just behead their wives, they are big on torture, hanging, burning at the stake. Just sayin’ But, the alternative, reading bland predictable fluffy-nonliterature sounds paralyzing. The less time I have the less I’m wont to waste.
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” But what the hell. Push on Kumari. Play like you gonna get better. I have 12 more treatments and then? Like a tiny ring of light from an iPhone that allows me to see just a little bit, then the next little bit and so on, I timidly navigate the future. I’ll report back.
Now y’all play nice!