it is not the discussion- not the overly gentle tone or the bracing hesitancy, the carefully cultivated bedside manner balancing on a tightrope between no-nonsense diagnosis and the trepiditious weight of bad news breaking- but the scenery that shifts my gut and sends a dull weight plummeting to my feet. because uncertain numbers and unclear images wouldn't necessitate a field trip into his office space, to these soft chairs and hard shelves and sunlight streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows with a tollway traffic jam on display. it is the space in between the words, the omnipresent ghost of the unspoken noun cancer following closely behind the clinical terminology that he picks and weaves his way through like checkpoints that must be crossed to finish out this conversation- non-hodgkins lymphoma, b cell count, primary extranodal, high ldh, aggressive. he sandwiches that last word in between platitudes like some options and still very treatable but it sticks out like a red flag and carves me out into a hollow shell of disbelief. and so i sit very still and wait for the part where the alarm clock jolts me out of this falling arc or the fourth wall is broken and it turns out to be fiction all along but the sunlight is slanting across his desk in a slow and steady progression that tells me this is my life and my narrative and the inkwell is abruptly running dry. my mind shifts bizarrely, unbidden, to the perspective of patients and victims and casualties of war who must always think immediately prior to the killing blow- this can't be happening to me, i am the protagonist! and it occurs to me that the deus ex machina is not coming for me, no bag of chemo cocktails or radiation will exonerate me from this plot device because unbeknownst to me this was always intended to be a story about disease and the chest pains and cold sweats and persistent coughs were just built to spill into the denouement.
and then someone says something about the stages of grief mirrored in the acceptance of disease and it seems that i have bypassed every emotional high and low in the space of seconds to flatline at zero. there is no more left to write and my story is ready to be shelved in dusty, forgotten stacks to be referenced on rare occasion for research about prognosis.
file under: terminally ill or terminally numb.