Cancer Is the New Black: Early Excerpts

By on May 27th, 2015 Categories: The Breast Cancer Journey

Editor’s note: We’re going back in time to bring you the very first excerpts from journalist Laurel May Bond, who writes the blog Cancer Is the New Black. The following is a personal account of her 2012 diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Stay tuned for another installment on June 8, 2015.

A note to those who have great difficulty managing the fear of recurrence: The content below may be triggering. You may want to consider this before reading.

***

April 23, 2012

Are You There, Laurel? It’s Me, Cancer.

I had a stomach ache. After day three of excruciating pain in my lower abdomen, I left work and did what any self respecting San Franciscan would do. I did a Yelp search for “Best SF Emergency Room.” CPMC was the big winner so I drove on over. I didn’t have any sense of dread, or nervousness. I just wanted my f**king stomach to stop hurting. After waltzing in to an empty ER, breezing right on through to a delightful morphine IV drip — my fiancé joined me in my little curtained room where we were holding court with the staff. Everyone joking and laughing hahahaha, etc. The attending ER doc, who bore a terrifying resemblance to the Dr. in my favorite movie of all time, “Cannonball Run” (this guy) had requested a CT scan. After some amount of time, who knows how long — I was so high — returned. “I believe you are having an episode of colitis.” Colitis! Yay! WTF is colitis? A clearing of a throat. “And, also we have found something else on the scan. Something in your lung.” Huh. Time slows, room tilts. “Are you telling me THE CANCER CAME BACK? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TELLING ME?” The doctor was wall-eyed. I was finding it difficult to establish or maintain eye contact. “I cannot say that. But because of your history of breast cancer, what I am seeing on your scans is of a serious concern.” I remember asking, no — demanding to be sedated. I remember crying. And then blackness.

Waking up at sunrise, alone in the hospital. I dragged my tubes over to a window and looked out over Downtown and the Bay. I watched a container ship for about 40 minutes, until I realized it was anchored, not moving.

I went into the hospital with a tummy ache and I woke up with cancer.

***

April 23, 2012

OhmyhellImgonnadie

…Now I am living the dream. I lie in a Kraftmatik adjustable bed, on 20-thread count sheets. I rest my head on a rubber pillow. People stream in and out, my man, a friend, doctors, nurses. No one will tell me anything. Finally, my oncologist shows up. It’s a bit awkward because the last time I saw him I basically told him to screw himself. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, my fiancé and I had frozen a bunch of embryos. In my opinion, now was the time for them to come out of the freezer and go instead, to my uterus. My oncologist told me that he strongly felt I should stay on tamoxifen for five years. Unbeknownst to him, I had already taken steps with my fertility clinic to do a frozen embryo transfer at the end of my next cycle. I was determined. I yelled at him. I told him I didn’t even know if I would be ABLE to get pregnant anyway, so no more tamoxifen dammit. Then I huffed out. I remember passing him as he held the office door for me and saying, “I hope I never see you again.” What an a**hole. (Me.)

Anyway, there he was at my bedside. I said “Sorry I was so mean to you,” which he totally brushed off. Making it pretty clear to me he wasn’t hanging around for a chat about feelings. He was all biznezz. He said, “Did they tell you about your lung?” I said, “Yes. Does this mean my cancer has metastasized?” “Maybe. Make an appointment on Monday for a biopsy.” Then he split.

Maybe. Wow, thanks for the info.

I checked myself out of the hospital as soon as I could after he left. Spent the rest of the weekend on the death/hope see-saw.

I don’t remember being this upset by my original diagnosis. I think maybe that means this time, it’s going to be much, much worse. There’s a quote from David Carr’s The Night of the Gun which keeps coming back to me. I can’t quote it verbatim, but it’s something about once you’ve had cancer, you try to keep a low profile so it doesn’t somehow take notice of you again. I feel like I was too happy. I took it too lightly. I didn’t fear it enough and I brought it back upon myself. “Ah ha! You there, I thought I had taken care of you already . . .”

***

April 26, 2012

Duck Diving

I don’t have mood swings. I have mood tsunamis. Sometimes I’ll catch myself thinking about which girlfriend is going to get which purse after I die, or I think about whether or not I’m going to haunt the house I live in now. Sometimes I fantasize that tomorrow I will sit down in front of my doctor’s desk and he tells me that it was all a BIG MISTAKE! Ahhahahahaha! Then we’ll all have a laugh and I will go to the nearest bar and get f**king hammered. “Whew.” I’ll say, “That was a close one!”

I know there are all those famous Kubler-Ross stages of grief which are normal, but I don’t think that it’s normal to cycle through all of them on an hourly basis. I am. Right now, this second, I’m in “anger.” Nope, scratch that, I just shifted into “bargaining.”

P.S. Katie, you are NOT getting the Chanel, because everyone knows sometimes you carry knock-offs.

***

May 10, 2012

“You Could Walk Out the Door and Get Hit By a Bus.”

The worst part about finding out you have cancer is figuring out exactly what to do with that information. Of course we’re all going to die. Everybody knows there’s an end to this road, they just tend to think it’ll happen at some foggy later date. Like in the time of flying cars! After we’re rich and famous! When we’re old and decrepit and looking forward to death!  Still, in the last few weeks after I have shared my horrible f**king news, more than one person (quite a few, actually) have said,

“Well, you could walk out the door one day and get hit by a bus.”

Exactly when did getting hit by a bus become our collective benchmark for untimely death? Do you even know anyone who’s been run over by a bus? Me neither, and I know a person who was struck and killed by lightning. I poked around on the internet and found a handful of unverifiable, totally untrustworthy websites place the odds of being hit by a bus at approximately 2 in 10,000,000.

On the other hand, The National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, estimates that, based on current rates, 12.2 percent of women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives. I suck at math, but they tell me that’s 1 in 8.

***

May 18, 2012

Polished

I was walking on the beach and I found this little hunk of driftwood. I have a friend who collects natural objects that are vaguely heart-shaped. Rocks and leaves and stuff. This thing looked like a heart to me, so I picked it up and held it for a while. It was so smooth. It wasn’t always that way. It used to be a part of a tree. Maybe it was a tree branch and there was a terrible wind and it broke off and fell into the storm drain and then made its way to the sea in a stream of leaves and chewed up gum and used condoms and scraps of paper and cigarette butts. Maybe it was a tree that was chopped down and was made into something else which fell into the ocean and was greatly missed. Maybe it was something that fell off a ship and no one cared. Maybe it was a special keepsake that someone threw it into the water in a fit of rage in hopes that it would disappear forever.

It sank down and down. It rolled around and around in the surf. The waves ground against it and it tumbled through the sand. Maybe a crab crawled over it. Maybe it rested in quiet darkness for a long time. The tide came up and then the tide went out. It was abandoned on the beach and it lay in the sun. I walked over and I picked it up.

What was I before I was this? What were you? What form are you now taking? Are you becoming smooth with the grinding and tumbling of it all? Where will you go? What beach will I wash up on? Will someone be pick me up and stroke me gently in their hand? Will they wonder where I came from and ponder the shape I once held?

A freelance entertainment journalist and writer of the blog Cancer is the New Black, Laurel May Bond has been making metastatic breast cancer cool since 2012. Just kidding. Sort of. She lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona with her husband and a bulldog.

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