I’d been on the table for half an hour before I started to cry. And even then, it wasn’t a sob or sound of any sort, neither something I welcomed nor attempted to suppress. It was just tears, streaming down the sides of my face. And I just let them. Why not feel sad? I had been at the Breast Center for nearly 2 hours, had endured the second mammogram my doctor said I needed, had waited here, had waited there, pink wristband with my name on it, pink robe. It was supposed to feel like a soothing place, but really, how could anyone feel soothed here?
By the time I was on the table, the energetic sadness of the place combined with my own, and there the tears were, as I lay there getting an ultrasound, watching the screen, seeing the lumps, not one, but several, one quite noticeable.
Only a couple of weeks before, I had been lying in savasana, feeling, for perhaps the first time, totally unafraid to die. My mind was reminding me of that now, reminding me also that I didn’t believe in coincidences, and stringing those two events together quite firmly and dramatically. “You have breast cancer. You are going to die. This is why you felt no fear. It’s time.”
And I still felt no fear.
But I did feel sadness. My children. My oldest, in college, just getting his life together in his own terms. How would this be for him? My youngest, very disabled. Who would care for him?
The technician pretended not to notice. I wondered what it would be like to have a job like hers. I wouldn’t want a job like that. She quietly said it wouldn’t be much longer. And when she was done, she said the doctor would be in to see me shortly.
So, I had to see the doctor.
Not a good sign, my mind assured me.
“He is going to tell you you have breast cancer,” my mind assured me; a professional sense of knowing, that mind of mine has. It was certain.
It’s funny, in a sick kind of way, that my mind is never quite finished. You’d think that might be enough, I was already down, after all, my mind towering over me, while I lay helpless in its grasp, tears streaming down my face. All it did, however, was tighten the screws. It knowingly and self-assuredly reminded me of what had led me to this writing project in the first place: the day I woke up and suddenly, fully, felt and realized how insanely short life is. Right then and there, I made a list of everything I love to do, and realized I hardly ever do any of those things. Instead, I am working (for me, there’s always more work that can be done) or taking care of other people. It hit me so hard I really cried. I immediately decided I was going to read the list every day and change this. And I set out to do it. The reason, of course, that I realized it at this time, that I had had this sudden sense of present-centered awareness, was, naturally, because I was going to die.
I just didn’t know it then. But I knew it now. Going. To. Die. And soon.
You can probably guess where this is going. I am, after all, still here. The news was not great (they are watching. I must return in six months) but it was certainly not tragic. I’m alive. No apparent cancer. I’m here now.
And that’s where I aspire to stay: here now. Still, it reminded me that although I look at the list I had made of the things I love to do, now and again, I don’t look at it all that much, and it still hides in the drawer. I think of it often, but I hide it. Why? Am I ashamed of the things I like to do?
No, not really.
I guess I see the list as something private, something just for me. But what could be wrong with loved ones knowing that there’s a list of things I love to do?
I’d love to give you some neat, perfect answer that shows how deep I am, how much I’ve learned, how transformed my life now is, having made the list and narrowly escaping a harrowing death. Instead, I sit at my desk, writing this now, the list in front of me, and no clear sense as to whether or not it’s going back in the drawer. Or not.