The Big C

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.
-Toni Morrison

I had to take the day off of work today. Not in the fun, play hooky, vacation way. Today was not that kind of summer day. It started one month ago at an appointment with my new primary care physician.

In February of 2016, my husband and I moved from California to Massachusetts. Since then, and even before, I haven’t been to see a doctor. I’m in my early 30s with no medical issues and for over 2 years, my focus has been on my husband’s health. On his addiction, his treatment, and his recovery. HIM. Have you loved an addict? Then you KNOW what I am talking about.

Addiction’s gravity pulling life into its black hole with such force that all light was consumed, leaving me trapped and invisible. Celestial death in an exploding star.

I ended up ignoring my own care. Lovers of addicts, YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS.

Today my husband is 319 days sober.

So a month ago, I found myself a doctor and set up a routine physical. I felt so satisfied that sunny Friday in July as I drove to her office 15 minutes from my home. Finally my life was manageable enough that I could take care of my health like a functional adult. I had time, money, and energy for a pedicure, manicure, and doctors appointment. After the visit, I would pack and get ready to go to the beach for a week long vacation at the shore. Some real adult happy-life shit, you know?

For a long time I didn’t believe I would experience this kind of life.

Adulting is not always fun. My new doctor doesn’t have the best bedside manner. She also maintains eye contact for an uncomfortably long time while asking personal-medical questions. During the breast exam she stated she thought she felt irregularities, possibly lumps, and wrote me an order for a mammogram and ultrasound. She reassured me it was probably nothing, but wanted to make sure. The dread hatched in my gut, a minuscule, almost undetectable parasite.

The Big C. Cancer. Bye bye happy-life shit. It was fun while it lasted.

Today I had my first mammogram. I have been clinging to the “it’s nothing” thought these last weeks before the test. Not denial, but survival mixed with rationality. Then there’s my husband. He is not great at emotions. His response was more nonchalant than I would have liked, also sticking to the “it’s nothing, there’s no need to worry” line. Again survival, but this time mixed with repression.

Today I had my first mammogram and today it hit me. This is a test to aid in the detection of cancer. The parasite burrowed in my gut. I was unable to eat, and I felt shaky, alone, and afraid. I had been here before. To this emotional place. I battled my husband’s addiction. I still do. I am a survivor.

Today I had my first mammogram. Today I was manhandled by a tech, my breasts were flattened and pressed, as the tech told me to relax, then repetitively shouted to me to stop breathing in a husky monotone script. Once it was done, I was instructed to wait for the radiologist in order to complete the ultrasound and analyze the results. As I sat in the surprisingly comfortable chair, manually securing the gown around my chest and torso (because who the hell can figure out all of those straps, holes, and belts), I texted my husband, I prayed, and I thought. I thought a lot. We are beating the insidious, cunning motherfucker that is opioid addiction and now this. Now this. Now cancer. It got dramatic. It got scary. I have been there in addiction. I am a survivor.

Unlike my PCP, the radiologist had a fabulous bedside manner. She was gentle and compassionate. She explained everything she saw in a way that demonstrated her awareness of my intense vulnerability. When I left she did something unexpected, especially in Massachusetts. She hugged me. It was a simple and profound act of kindness.

This brings me to another (and better) Big C. Connection.

We live in a complex time; in a world that feels more and more disconnected, material, and inhumane. In the United States, we recently witnessed a violent brand of hatred marching in our streets. Divisiveness a commonly uttered word in the modern American narrative.

Connection between people is powerful. I know it’s healing properties in addiction and I have written about it extensively here. I felt it today from a stranger. Connection in her kind words, in a listening ear, in a gentle touch, in a loving embrace, and in a simple hug.

As for the imaging, the radiologist saw nothing. No lumps. Just normal fat, muscle, glands, and connective tissue.

My chest a beating heart and connective tissue.

26 thoughts on “The Big C

  1. Annette

    In my years living with my daughters addiction I was taught so much about letting go and detaching. And to be honest, I probably needed that so that my pendulum could swing back around to a healthier place. Kind of a like a big detox and then I can gently and slowly add foods back in to my diet to an appropriate level and see which are causing what issues. I have come to learn though that “connection” is vital, imperative, to human life. Yes with boundaries in place, yada yada yada…of course, but connecting with one another is living. I also could tell you so many beautiful stories of the kindness of strangers, of medical professionals, nurses, nurses aides, rehab workers, not all, and not nearly enough, but the one’s who do subscribe to living a life of connection have given her (and me by proxy, because I love her) gifts, that I will never forget. A hug, a squeeze of the hand, a smile, an encouraging word, compassion when she has been at her lowest. I am so happy that your mammo was all clear. Next time it wont be so scary….so many unknowns the first time. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Annette. You describe the complex challenges we face loving a person with an addiction. Connection with my husband did begin with letting go. It can be hard to toe the line of letting go, connecting, establishing boundaries etc with a loved one. Especially when there is fear, desperation, and a history of codependent behaviors. You know you remind me with your comment that connection with my husband when he was using and now in recovery couldn’t occur until I first re connected with myself…part of this is self care and I’m still working on it! It’s just so complex. This reminds me too I was reading a post about things to do when a loved one is addicted. Of course the recommendations were right on, but the piece missing was what it’s actually like when you’re in it and how to manage the emotions. Tough stuff. Sending love and healing to you and your daughter.


  2. I love you! And I am in tears.
    You have made a huge connection with me, and your words always speak to me.
    We were never meant to be alone, and yet I struggle with finding connections in my real life!
    Tell your husband congratulations!
    And mammograms are scary and yet, funny…all the squishy positions you have to get into!
    Thank you for helping me understand what goes through my husband’s head, as it is harder for him to tell me his feelings.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love you Wendy! Connection should always be a goal, which means we are succeeding! Your friendship is crucial in my recovery and life journey with my husband. Oh man now I’m crying!
      Communicating emotions can be difficult, especially for men. We all have our own ways of connecting you know?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Posts That Caught My Interest #7 | a cooking pot and twisted tales

  4. So glad it was okay…As a recovering alcoholic this is an important reminder for me of how my behaviour impacted on those I loved. We developed a co dependency and we struggled and had huge problems in my early recovery. He said it went from being all about my drinking to all about not drinking. The truth is I had to be selfish in the early days , and he wasn’t involved in that part of my life and resented that. It’s different now thankfully. But you are SO supportive of your husband, it’s beyond amazing. I really am so happy for you, remember you are recovering too and self care and connection with others who understand what you’ve been through is so important, sending love S x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are so spot on. Yes addiction is most certainly self centered. Before my husband got clean, I had to learn to care for myself and I am still working on that in recovery. Thankfully my husband’s recovery has brought us closer together because he is now present and not consumed by a demon that hijacked his brain. Thank you for your kind words and support. Sending love back your way. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, griping portrayal of a trip to the doctor.

    I’m so glad that things are relatively ok with your health. It is a bleak world, no doubt. There is a lot of light to cling to still. I hear you doing it, with your husband, and the fact that you are a survivor.

    Sometimes, it just feels like the world is this spinning ball of chaos, spiraling down, down, down, doesn’t it? I feel that way in waves. They go up, they go down. I’m always in the middle, tugged one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The world can be bleak and certainly chaotic, especially these days, but I’m also experiencing the joys of recovery with my husband and I truly feel blessed. Sometimes looking back at where we came from it feels unreal. Thank you for being here through all of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Geez! What a great post- surreal and scary, yet better outcome than I was anticipating. I’m glad for you. Life can really throw some curve balls. I’m so happy to have gotten into your blog. I look forward to catching up on past posts and seeing more to come 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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