When Denny lets go of frustration, he says, "It could always suck worse." In our first year together I didn't get it. How is knowing that something could be worse supposed to make a bad thing better?
Thirteen years ago, the month before Denny and I married, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was lucky on both counts, to marry Denny and catch the cancer early, although finding out I had cancer didn't feel lucky.
The cancer was invasive and fast-growing and the doctors prescribed radiation and chemotherapy after the operation. I'm fine now, been cancer-free since treatment. But that first year, I lived with pain and anguish and I searched for ways to cope while my body and emotions broke from the regimen.
The first day of radiation, I stood in line to check in. I didn't know where to go or what to do or how it would feel when it was my turn. And in the back of my mind was the fear that no matter what I did it wouldn't be enough and the cancer wouldn't disappear and I'd die.
Later I'd learn we're all dying, sick people and healthy people alike. Just some people are dying faster than others and wake up with that knowledge every morning. While the rest wake up believing they have years and wondering what they'll eat for breakfast.
I shifted from one foot to the other, watching the receptionist, trying to keep my stomach from spitting back my morning toast. I didn't want to be there and I didn't want to wait in line. It was bad enough that I'd have to lay near-naked in a cold room on a metal table with my pitiful breast exposed to death rays from a looming machine. I had to wait for the privilege? What was holding up the blankety-blank line? I craned my head to see around the man in front of me, a tall blond guy with an athletic build.
As each patient left the line we shuffled forward a few steps. It probably didn't take long but in my memory it was forever. Finally the guy in front of me made it to the counter. The woman checked the registry and gave him a piece of paper. He thanked her and stepped away.
I looked up as he turned. A white plastic triangle covered the cavity in his face where his nose should have been.
My mind flashed. "Thank god I had breast cancer."
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.