"Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learned to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything." - Saul Leiter
It's 6:30am on a Thursday morning, almost two weeks to the day that I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary source.
I thought I would have heard from them by now. The oncologist at UCSD Moore Cancer Center. I mean, it's been over a week since they received my case. How can they possibly still be reviewing it? Don't they know I have cancer?
Thoughts circle my mind like a whirlwind of chaos as I sit up and attempt to settle into my first meditation practice of the day but all I can think about is the big, goopy cup of coffee I so friggin' want right now. I'm missing some of my old rituals.
As committed as I am to eating and drinking things that only promote alkalinity in my body, I just want to be sitting at the base of a big mountain in the early morning, with the soft glow of the spring light kissing the snow capped mountains, sipping on cheap, instant goop. I wonder if I'll ever be able to drink coffee again without feeling guilty.
I'm growing frustrated with the system as I wait on more information. I'm starting to feel like I've been swept under the rug, once again.
Over the last few days I've noticed a certain irritation, an impatience for myself and with others, bubbling up from within. My type A side is feening for more structure and order yet my wild and free spirit is enjoying the unknown. I feel like a total conundrum. My head is spinning.
I take a deep breathe and focus on my breathing, doing my best to attempt to let go of any linger irritation and chaotic thoughts.
"Just focus on your breathing, Amanda." I quietly say to myself as I place my left hand on my chest. "Let all that other junk fall away. For now."
I come to from my trance-like meditative state and realize I actually meditated. This makes me excited because honestly, I really stink at meditating and lately its felt more like a violent boxing match between the competing thoughts in my head instead of a mediation practice. Screw the silence, let's just see which ones I can keep at bay the longest. That alone feels like a success.
"Today's the day!" I say to myself as I slip out from under the covers, resting on the edge of the bed as I pull on my fuzzy white Penguin socks. The ones my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago.
Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer.
I prepare my warm lemon water and stand staring out the kitchen window at my back yard. I look at the garden and a smile forms across my lips as I imagine the harvest we will have in a few months. I think about the conversation my housemate and I had yesterday as we were cleaning out the garden, getting it ready for planting on Saturday. How empowering it was going to feel to grow our own food. I laughed and told her that I'd rather be hands deep in dirt and soil then out partying any day.
I'm shaken from my memory by the sound of boiling water.
Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer.
Earlier this week I joked with a friend and said, "they better figure something out soon cause I'm already bored with cancer. I'm bored of talking about it. I just want to get back to my life."
So that's what I decided to do. Get back to it. Because despite this recent diagnosis of mine, I must keep moving forward.
When I first realized my gut feeling was becoming my reality, I immediately thought of all the stuff I was doing. I am only half-way through my first semester of school. Last time, twelve years ago, I had just completed my first quarter back at school. All I could think was, seriously? Please, not again. I don't have time to put all this on hold agin.
So today, they have to call. They have to because don't they know I have cancer.
And my art. I have momentum. I have plans. I don't have time to put all this on hold either.
I wonder; why is it that right when things feel good, right when I feel like I'm going down a path that feels so friggin' good, life throws a giant curveball?
I've been mulling over something for a few years now, something I think people often say to provide comfort but I wonder, does it?
"God does not give you more then you can handle."
I've been turning it over and over in my head because it bugs me. I think it’s bullshit sometimes. But I also find a lot of truth to it. I've found myself repeating it often. To myself and others, as a source of comfort. But I don’t know what I believe anymore.
What I feel like saying to God is this:
"I'm good God. I think I've had my fair share of challenges to learn and grow from. I mean, it's not that I can't handle it. I KNOW I can handle this. I am one strong bamajama. There is no denying that. But God, I'm good. I think I've had my fair share."
And then I hear God laugh in the far off distance. And I give him my most perfect glare and eye roll.
Today they'll call. They have to. Don't they know I have cancer.
I get ready for school and call Brooke, my best friend back in Seattle. We catch up, both sharing our latest frustrations with the medical system and then we encourage the other to call our doctors and insist on moving forward. "Be your own advocate!" I cheer and laugh into the phone. "We are women, hear us roar! The sounds of claps and cheers fill my head and I cheer on my best friend.
I hang up with Brooke and silence.
I feel weak, forgotten and powerless as I call UCSD.
I'm transferred to a gal named Wendy and she informs me that my case has, in fact, finally been approved. I can't help but suddenly feel like dollars signs are hanging over my head..
"April 10th is the soonest I can get you in to see one of the oncologist." says Wendy. Tears well up in my eyes. I clear my throat and try to compose myself. " But that's over a week and a half away. You don't have anything sooner? I've already been sitting on this diagnosis for two weeks. I'm also losing my insurance at the end of April and there will be a lapse until I can get private insurance. I kind of need to do whatever it is I need to do before that"
"You mean surgery? Oh well, we are already booking out into the middle of May for that anyway. I'm sorry. We are just really busy." She replies. This fact alone is just depressing in and of itself. They're just "really busy."
"But wait!" I want to shout. "Don't you know I have cancer?"
"I guess just put me down for that one." I say as nicely as I can. I know I can't take out my frustrations on her but I surely want to. "Can I get on a cancellation list?"
"You can call back Monday and see if anyone's cancelled. It does happen every now and then." Wendy replies.
"Okay, thanks." I whisper.
I hang up the phone and give myself a few moments to cry in the drivers seat sitting in my car in the school parking lot.
Because don't they know, I have cancer?