Friday, July 25, 2003

Well, It's A Bouncing Baby Tumor

"Cancer." It was the first word that popped into my head when I woke up. It wasn't the first thought, exactly, because first I had the fuzzy realization of where I was and that the cat was next to me and that sound was the alarm. But miliseconds after becoming conscious, that word was in my head, as clearly as if I'd said it aloud.

Seconds before I open my back door, I can spy through the curtains on the door and see the person on the top step. When J comes over, there are three things he might be doing. Sometimes, he is adjusting his hair, especially if he's just had a hood or hat on. Sometimes, he has a rather neutral expression on his face, and he stares blankly at the top step, until he hears me fiddle with the lock, and his face brightens into a smile. Other times, he's looking around the back door area at the usual jumble of things piled out there, like gardening pots and watering cans, or junk that's on it's way out to the curb, and he's thinking of how to use these things as props and make jokes when I open the door. Only yesterday, I saw a different look on his face as I approached the door, and even though he smiled when I opened it, I felt something was wrong.

It was faster than I'd expected, since they'd said not to expect to hear results for 7-10 days. But it was exactly the news that I knew was coming.

The day of his biopsy, he was very brave about the whole thing. We went back to that stupid office with the sailboats everywhere, and the navy blue furniture (that I've now discovered with tip over with the slightest provocation, providing much needed comic relief while waiting for some nasty procedure to be done to your loved one). When we first sat down, a nurse led some unfortunate soul by the elbow out into the waiting room, and he seemed like he was completely incapacitated, stumbling and mumbling his way awkwardly through the doorway. At first, J and I shared a glance, and I knew that we both assumed that the guy was under the influence of the same anesthesia that J would be getting. I thought, "Holy shit!", no wonder they want someone to drive you home!

It only took seconds of watching this scene to realize, though, that it wasn't any sort of drugging that was his problem, but that he had some form of retardation. And God forgive me, I had to stifle an urge to laugh, not because the poor man was retarded, but because I was so relieved that his obvious problem had nothing to do with the procedure J was about to have. And you know how when you have the urge to laugh at a moment that is really inappropriate, that it makes it all the more difficult to stop yourself from laughing? Well, I was in that special hell right then. I glanced at J, who immediately picked up on my problem, and then he was in the same position, stifling the urge to laugh at MY urge to laugh. As a distraction, I picked up a pamphlet on female incontinence and asked J what he thought that was doing in an office devoted to male problems, and he looked at me like I was asking him his thoughts about the national debt, as if he cared at that moment. But when he realized that I was just trying to distract us both so we didn't laugh, he found that even more amusing. We looked away from each other and composed ourselves.

He was actually in pretty good condition after the procedure, but he was so uncomfortable, feeling as if he had a pin-cushion up his ass, as he put it. I knew that he was getting nauseated from the car ride, but we made it to his house okay, and after getting his bearings, all he really wanted was a nap. I'd brought a book to read in case he wanted me to stay around for a while, but he asked if I wanted to nap with him. Since I'd taken the whole day off, I had nowhere else I needed to be, and nowhere else I'd rather be. Still, I was surprised that he wanted me around, since he's always been the type to want to curl up in his cave and be alone when he's sick, and I'm just the opposite - I want someone to let me sleep next to them while they watch tv, and they'll get me water and Advil or whatever when I need it. And when someone is sick, I want to make them comfortable without smothering them, so I look to the sick person for guidance what they need from me. I'd always had the feeling before that he didn't want to ask me for anything, didn't want to be smothered. Sometimes it's maddening, when I feel like I'm smothering so I pull back, and then he pulls me toward him. I want to sit him down and say, "Which way do you want it already?" But now is not the time to get into that with him.

I layed awake next to him for a long time and finally fell asleep with him. When we got up, we ate, hung around for a while, and listened to tapes of his old band which he was copying onto CDs for his old bandmembers. He kept apologizing for boring me, but he actually wasn't. I was relieved to just sit and listen, having something to think about and not having to make conversation. I was actually feeling very conflicted about how our relationship is going, since I know damn well how much I feel for him, but I feel I'm getting mixed signals from J about how he feels about me. I've been simmering about that for a while now, and now I'm scared for him and what the future will bring, and how hard this episode will be on us both. And it's just NOT the time to delve into relationship issues, even though I can't help but wonder if I'm making a big shmuck of myself in the long run, hanging onto someone who doesn't seem clear about how he feels about me. Oh well, I'm not about to even consider rocking the boat NOW, when he needs me the most, but not talking about it is weighing heavily on me.

By the time I left that night, I was pretty full up of conflicting emotions, and all it took was one big lightening strike above my car and I was bawling like a baby all the way home. I'm afraid of lightening, and I don't care how often people parrot back to me the fact that I'm probably safest in the car during a lightening storm, I'm still going to jump and scream when a huge bolt rips across the sky while I'm behind the wheel. It was the last straw, and the brave facade was wiped off my face in an instant. I cried myself to sleep, and cried some more in the shower the next morning. It actually felt good to get it out of my system.

Now that the prostate cancer is confirmed, J is being so level-headed and calm, I just wonder if the reality has sunk in. I don't think it has. And I was proud of myself for not crying or freaking out when he told me, especially since he's already thanked me for NOT freaking out, and I know that keeping the distress to myself is better for him. But really, I think I got all my mourning out that night in the car. I already knew then that he had cancer, and that the cure and the aftermath are going to be tough. And I know that the reality of the side effects of prostate cancer treatments are going to be really rough on a male ego, and I'm anxious about that. And to be honest, I'm wondering what this is going to mean for our sex life for the next few years. Years. Jesus.

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad as hell this is treatable, and really really thankful that he has health insurance and a good support system. But that doesn't mean that this doesn't really suck.

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