Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. Mad as Hell.

Scary FaceThis post comes with a WARNING.  What you’re about to read may make you uncomfortable.  Or mad.

I’m mad.  Mad as hell.  What do I do with all this seething anger?  I could hold it in.  Suppress it like an unpleasant sneeze.  I could let it fester, bubble and boil for the rest of my life. Or I could just dump it here.

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes this Big C walk with E is way more than I signed up for.  I want to be the Good Wife.  The benevolent devoted soul mate.  I do.  But I’m not.  Don’t get me wrong, I am kind, compassionate and caring.  But there are times when the fire breathing dragon and the monster under the bed emerge.

What am I angry about?  That’s the thing.  I don’t even know half the time.  Everything and anything.

Am I surprised by the anger?  Absolutely.  I didn’t expect this.

It hasn’t simply been a steady build. Or slow burn. A crescendo ending with a crashing forte of rage.  Random acts of anger.  Unexpected outbursts.  Irrational displays of irritability.  Non-stop wrath or fury.  Annoyance or aggravation.  It has been all of these things. Thankfully not all at the same time.  But there are days where I simply move from one crappy angry emotion to the other.

Quite frankly, I can’t pinpoint what has my dander up and caused my blood to boil.  Why I see red.  And often black.

Some of the things I’m angry about make perfect sense.  At least to me.  Like the slowness of the medical process.  A year ago, at his annual check-up, E mentioned this irritation he had in his mouth.  Possibly it was a canker sore or a benign lesion.  Or possibly it was something bigger.  More sinister.  Who knew.  Certainly not us.  We’re not the experts.  This initial ‘mention’ to the doctor was followed by several trips to the neighborhood walk-in clinic where E was given cream to rub on the sore.  Months would pass before a biopsy was performed and a diagnosis given.  That was just the beginning.  More months would pass before his surgery.  A year later and the road ahead is long.  And winding.  Exhausting.  Draped in weary.  I’m angry about this.

Then there are the list of irrational things.  These cover the gambit, the full spectrum of the rainbow, the various degrees and levels of my anger.  Everything from the petty and trivial to the foolish and inconsequential.  The paltry, piddling and pettifogging.  All those shabby emotions that once expressed, or even thought, leave me feeling small, spiteful, mean, and just downright unkind.

Everything bugs me. Going right back to the early days. Until this present moment.

The botched biopsy.  Inconceivable. The breathtaking beauty of the Oncologist. Distracting. The daily crosstown trips to the hospital. Tedious.  The smell on the seventh floor.  Sickening. E’s feeding tube dangling from his nose.  Disgusting. The color blue of his hospital regulation issued PJs. Unfashionable. The ear-to-ear scar on E’s neck.  Frightening.  The size of his tongue.  Unfathomable. The disruption to our daily lives.  Unwanted.  The long lonely nights where sleep was a stranger.  Disturbing.  The lousy meals, fast food and frozen dinners.  Repulsive. The sound of the blender.  Irritating. The clutter, mess, dust and dog fur in E’s man cave.  Infuriating. The smell of soup in the microwave. Revolting. The way E speaks.  Incomprehensible.  The flowers and plants that need planting.  Frustrating. Taking out the garbage and doing the recycling. Enraging. Doing chores that E used to do. Exasperating. Being nice.  Impossible.

How could I think, feel, say such nasty things?  I don’t know.

I wish I could be more like Mother Theresa. All saintly and good.  But I’m not.  I’m Helen Keller before Anne Sullivan came into her life.  Groping in the dark. Punching the air. Kicking and screaming at anything unfortunate enough to cross my path. I stumble carelessly into the abyss.  I hiss and curse unapologetically. I breathe fire.  Rant and rave like a freaking lunatic.

I do all that. Then I have the audacity to shed my skin like a snake.

And start anew.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. What Were You Thinking?

E before he quit smoking.

E before he quit smoking.

I’m not a mind reader.  I don’t have X-ray vision. No telepathic abilities that I’m aware of.  I’m definitely not a clairvoyant and the last time I checked I don’t have ESP.   But on occasion I do have an acute sixth sense.  Like Spider Man.  Sometimes I just know something’s up.

Such was the case the night we went to visit a gravely ill friend at the hospital.

After two decades together I thought E and I shared everything.  Our thoughts.  Feelings.  Fears.  But I learned that with this cancer thing, that wasn’t true.  Fact is, no one really knows for sure what’s going on inside another person’s head.  Nor do we know the things kept tucked away in timorous hearts.  Our interior worlds are ours alone. We share what we share.  Give what we give. Reveal only what’s comfortable or safe.  We’re transparent at times.  But more often than not, opaque.  The proverbial window into a person’s soul is often dirty.  Foggy.  Obscured. Dark and scary.

We rode up the hospital elevator to the seventh floor in easy silence. Each in our own private world. Elevators have this affect on us. I watched attentively as the red digital numbers over the doors changed.  Floor by floor.  Thankfully no one else joined us on our ride upward. I wasn’t in the mood for company. A fleeting thought of our sick friend crossed my mind.  Followed by an unsettling twitch of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  I took a gulp of air and let it out with flapping lips.  I sounded like a horse snorting.

Just before the doors swung open, I glanced over at E.  There was something about his expression that concerned me. Did it bother him to be back in a hospital?  Was he looking down the road to the day he’d have to return?  Was he afraid?

The doors opened.  We stepped out into the bright glaring lights of the corridor.  A startling contrast from the dimly lit elevator car with its hypnotic hum.  The steel box that confined and contained our emotions.

Boom.  Reality hit.  Raw.  Intense.  Chilly.  I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“How do you feel?” I blurted out.

“I’m fine,” he auto-responded.

“No, how do you really feel?” I persisted.

“I’m tired,” he exhaled fully, releasing weeks of held emotions.  “And depressed.  I don’t know if I’m tired because I’m depressed.  Or depressed because I’m so tired.”

“I understand,” I said.

Finally some truth.  A place to start.

For the first time in a month, E fully understood that he wasn’t alone.  He had me.  No matter what.  Although the cancer was inside his body, the journey was ours.  We were in this together.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.  We were a shameless spaghetti western.  Clint Eastwood, this movie belonged to us.

The next day I sat down at my computer and wrote this poem.

The Truth About This Thing Called Cancer

Yesterday when we got off the elevator at the 7th floor

And we were heading towards room 721

To visit our friend who was back in the hospital

Having a blood transfusion

In preparation for surgery the next day

His third in nine months.
His body was covered in scars

From years of cuts and mends

Repairs and retribution

A missing foot

An ulcer on the other

Now in peril.
But this isn’t about him.
I asked you how you were feeling

Really feeling

No fake bullshit

No more keeping secrets.

 

I’m a big girl

I can hear the word cancer

The Big C

Without wanting to dive

Into the river of terror.
I’m your love

And you are mine

We’ll do this together.
So you confessed.
You said that even though

You laugh and joke

Put on your happy face

There are times that you feel tired

And depressed.
You sleep

Because you are tired

Which makes you depressed

So you sleep

To make the depression

Go away.

 

You can’t tell

The cause

From the effect.
I told you that I understood.
But the truth is

I only understand

Half of the equation.

 

I don’t know cancer

But I know depression

And the desire to sleep it away.
I know love

And the power it wields

The healing it contains

For both of us
I told you right from the start

That all I ever wanted

Was for you to

Tell me the truth.
And that goes for this thing too.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Demon in the Dark.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

On Thursday, December 6 at 1:00am my world was rocked.  Not by my teenage daughter playing her music too loud.  Nor by the sound of a car stereo blasting its way past our quiet house.  No, this was far more sinister.  And threatening.

I woke up to the disturbing sight of E in the hallway holding his head in his hands like a pumpkin leftover from Halloween.  He must have switched on the light because I could see him so vividly heading towards our darkened bedroom. Like a zombie, one of the characters from The Walking Dead. He was stumbling and mumbling.  I had been sleeping and had no idea what time it was, nor did I comprehend the scene that was unfolding.

Startled, dazed and confused I leapt from our bed.  E stopped and did a 180, then shuffled off into the bathroom.  I followed.  I stood in the doorway and watched as he draped his face over the toilet bowl.  His mouth agape.

“What’s wrong?” I cried. “What’s happening?”

E sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles.  Saliva was pouring like clear corn syrup from his open mouth. A steady viscous stream of treacle. He continued to hold onto his head like it was a bowling ball.  Burdensome, heavy and tiring.  One false move and it could slip from his hands.  Shatter everything.

Terror-struck, I asked again what was wrong.

This is what I heard:

“Biopsy.  Cancer.”

This is the frenzied conversation that followed:

“Cancer!  No-no-no!  What do you mean?  What do we do?”

“Call 811.”

“811? What is that?”

“The nurse.”

“I’m calling a nurse?”

“Yeah.”

So I called the nurses hotline.  I was still dazed and confused.  Still hadn’t registered what was happening. Everything was haywire. A living nightmare.  A million thoughts were exploding in my mind all at once.  I went from zero to the deepest darkest scariest place in no time flat.  I lost it briefly.  And then jumped into action.  It was the only thing I knew how to do well.  Act.

In our retro 40’s home, we have a little alcove in the hall where the phone is hung.  It is directly across from the doorway to the bathroom so I had a clear vantage point to E’s agony.  It was gut-wrenching to witness my love, my brawny man, so vulnerable and in such pain.  Heartbreaking to see his beautiful blue eyes gripped with anxiety and distress.

I began to have this two-way conversation with E and the lovely (and calm) nurse on the other end of the phone.  Her voice was soothing.  Comforting.  Reassuring.

I still didn’t understand fully what was going on at this point.  I just knew it was bad.  In every sense of the word.  I explained to the nurse, as best I could, the symptoms that E was presenting.  I’ve never been adept at understanding people who don’t speak English very well.  I’m embarrassed to admit that accents are my Achilles Heel of communication.  The mumbo jumbo dripping from E’s mouth was way beyond that.  Nothing made sense.  Partly because I was in a state of shock and what he was saying was simply unbelievable.  Mystifying. Inconceivable.  And partly because E was incapable of talking.  It was like his mouth was full of bad food or dirty socks.  Every word labored.  Garbled. Distorted.

If it hadn’t been so terrifying, it would have been quite comical. We were participants in a game of charades where I had to “guess the symptoms.”  I managed to figure out that he was experiencing severe pain in his mouth.  His tongue was swollen.  He couldn’t swallow.  Saliva was pouring by the bucket full into his cupped hands.  But he had no trouble breathing.  The silver lining in the black cloud hanging over his head.

The nurse listened patiently and then offered two options.  Either call an ambulance to take E to the hospital.  Or drive him there.  Since it was E’s life I gave him the choice.

Within minutes E, our daughter M and I were on our way to the hospital.  I drove while E sat next to me in the front of the truck.  M sat in the bumper seat in the back of the cab, her University textbooks in one hand, cell phone in the other.

The nerve-wracking journey across town was long, dark and eerily quiet.  We hit every red light, which only exacerbated my frustration and fear.  It seemed to take forever to get there.

As I drove I took E’s hand and held it tight. I didn’t want to ever let it go.  Tears began to flow. Then anger.

We had a brief conversation that went something like this:

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having a biopsy?”

“I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Worry me?  Look how well that worked out for you.”