17. WE SHOULD BE "CANCER FREE", SO WHERE THE HELL DO WE PARK THE ANXIETY BUS NOW?
Working out at the gym in Winnipeg Canada, listening to the HBO Chernobyl podcast which I can’t remind enough, one of the front desk people taps me on the shoulder. I assume someone has taken offense at my “Ron Jeremy Rum” T-shirt that boast a “long smooth finish.” But no. My wife has called from Los Angeles.
“It sounds important” the woman tells me, planting a flag atop “Yeah, no shit” mountain.
I race to their phone. She’s been disconnected. I try to redial, but this is Canada so no outgoing calls to the USA. My cell phone is at home, and as the gym is walking distance, my next best option, or least bad one, is to sprint back to my parents’ house and call her from there. (Those of you who know me understand, this is not a body made for fast running.)
I hustle past my dad mowing the lawn - no time to tell him what’s going on, especially since I don’t know myself - then bust in into the kitchen and dial her number.
I try to read her voice. She doesn’t sound panicked, but she’s good in a crisis. I try to calm my breathing, and silence the blood pounding in my ears.
“Are you okay!?”
“Yeah, you need to call American Express, they charged us for your flight and we payed for it with points so they need to talk to you.”
There is a pause. That’s it? That’s the track-me-down-at-Good-Life-freakin’-Fitness emergency? Yup, that is fucking it. I take a moment.
“Okay,” I finally smile/spit through gritted teeth. “I though someone had died, but let me get right on that.”
Truth is, someone dying was the least of my worries. When you’re living from test result to test result, your mind always goes to the medical crisis first.
We’ve always tried to attack this thing head on. Fast. No mercy. Get it done, excised and gone. Take the drugs, do the rehab, kick cancer’s ass.
But while the cancer is supposedly now gone, apparently the attitude remains. The fight or flight instinct is very much alive, and rather than falling into the “don’t sweat the small stuff,” we are sweating everything. We are hyper attune to the forces that Marshall against us - no matter the size or scope.
And it’s not just her.
A few days back my wife left her cell phone at home, and then didn’t show up to meet a friend for lunch, who then reached out to me to see if I had heard from her. I went from zero to city in sports car time. I called every branch of that restaurant in town, to see if a tall, semi-bald woman was sitting there alone, or had been there, which would at least let me know where she had been kidnapped or where I should trace her movements from to find the site of the car wreck.
With no one left to call, I was on the verge of checking in with area hospital and police stations when she walked into the apartment, calmly explaining the series of coincidences that led to the snafu of missed connections.
Because even when you manage to avoid the big C, there’s. part of you that keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s not logical, in fact quite the opposite, but it is our present reality. Like an adrenalin spike after a close call, the cancer aftershock goes on and on.