Something’s creeping in my body. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely pain. In my hip, my groin – what a horrible word. I tell myself it’s a muscle strain, but my brain wants to deflect. It wants to shout out negative diagnosis such as a hip fracture. It wants to darken any hope and shout out cruelties frightening me into believing it could be cancer. My mind is being mean to me today. As the days grow into a week with the same aching, limping pain, my mind delves deeper, and I give into those fears. Is it? Cancer? Why, why go there?
I start to imagine a scenario: I’m sitting in a chair looking at the doctor’s paused face. There is a brilliant dark oak, ocean-wide desk between us. An island of isolated compassion from doctor to patient. I have a skirt on. The emerald one with a simple white tee, small dangled earrings, low wedges, hair just washed smelling of bottled flower. Casual, yet polished. I imagine me poised, direct in the chair with polite trepidation. I can be professional, calm, hinting of a well-adjusted woman when I receive the news. The news that will change my life and convince me that I have the most absolute dumb, f%@& luck ever to be known to any human being. Though, I know, that is not entirely true; irrational human behavior is another game my mind wants to play. Today, she is winning.
The doctor takes a deep breath, clasps his hands on the manila folder, the one containing words, numbers, and color-coded graphs, determining my future direction, breathes out and says “Well. Cynthia. Here it is.”
Already with the pauses. Just get to the point.
“Based on the X-rays, there is a deterioration of the soft bone tissue.”
My body starts to quiver. The underside of my skin is slowly warming. I can hear my heart pumping.
“Multiple myeloma is a hematological – blood – cancer that develops in the plasma cells found in the soft, spongy tissue at the center of your bones, in other words, the bone marrow.”
“Uh, huh.” These are the only words that are capable of coming out of my mouth, and my skin has started to moisten. I am running into my third mile.
His rehearsed, cold script continues. “Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells- are responsible for producing antibodies, critical for maintaining the body’s immune system. Through a complex, multi-step process, healthy plasma cells transform into malignant myeloma cells. Myeloma cells result in the production of abnormal antibodies, or M proteins. A high level of M protein in the blood is the hallmark characteristic of multiple myeloma.”
I’m getting angry. I hate him. What the hell is he saying? I can’t hear him any longer. He’s not making any sense. I’m spinning, and my thumping heart is so loud it’s drowning out his words.
“Additionally, all myeloma cells are identical to each other and produce large quantities of the same specific protein, for example, IgG or IgA. The M proteins offer no benefit to the body, and as the amount of M protein increases, it crowds out normally functioning immunoglobulins.”
Did he say goblins, or, or what, what did he say?
This ultimately causes multiple myeloma symptoms such as bone damage or kidney pro …”
“WAIT!” I interrupt! I have just about fallen off my chair. The big, beautiful leather chair in an overly-decorated office of dark wood and plants, garbled with misunderstood books. “I don’t understand, doctor. Please, dumb it down. You’re going too fast. I… please!”
“Yes. Of course. The myeloma is causing lesions, which appear like holes, weakening the bone, increasing the risk of bone fractures.”
The dry words fall out of my mouth, shaking, not wanting to ask, but I have to know, “So, you’re saying, it’s eating away at my bones?”
“Well, yes, basically, yes, yes, that’s a good way of putting it. Like most cancers, it is …”
He said it again. All his words are mumbling but that one word. That serial, murderous word. Cancer. I realize I’m holding my breath. I let it out. I can feel tears swelling. In five minutes my life has completely altered. I am exhausted, frightened, and flattened. How is this happening?
“Would you like a glass of water?” he asks.
Wait a minute! Take a breath. This is my mind, remember? That treacherous little devil of negativity, the black hole of unreality, an overly active imagination! Let’s all just calm down and take it one step at a time, one step at a time! I get off the couch, grab my purse, and head out, and, of course, I’m running late because I am so freaked out by this hip pain that I have let my mind take control of my body and personal conduct.
An hour later, the massage therapist asks,
“Would you like a cup of water?”
Bowed to the lowest level I have done it again. I have let my mind take control and over power me. I reply, “Yes. Please.”
“Yep, that muscle was really tight around the hips. A few more deep tissue massages and some proper stretching and ice packs should put it right. Just ease off it for a bit. You’ll be fine.”
My mind is snickering with pleasure at its accomplishment. I, with embarrassment and annoyance at myself, thank the therapist. I’m relieved. I’m now sure it is not cancer, but my appointment with the doctor is tomorrow.
You know, just to rule anything out.