Do you remember the part in the Hunger Games when Katniss is in the arena for the second time and she finds the edge, where the arena ends? She shoots the arrow into thin air and makes a tear?
I had a Hunger Games moment the other day.
(If I just lost you because you don't fancy yourself a reader of YA fiction, keep reading. You'll get it in a sec.)
There I was, flat on my back, arms stretched back over my head, hands gripping plastic handle bars. Above me was a photo of a redwood forest fixed to the ceiling. Immediately beside me was a huge x-ray machine, which rotated around me, taking pictures of my bare chest.
I kept staring up at that picture. It was a huge picture -- maybe six feet by 3 feet, light from behind. You were meant to get lost in that picture.
But suddenly I noticed a small hole in the picture, and spanning out from the hole were green lines. Lines made from laser beams.
And while I never thought the forest was actually there, the laser beams were jarring. The hole was startling, too. I found myself thinking, This isn't real. This whole scene has been fabricated...
And suddenly, not only was the picture not real, but my whole situation became surreal.
My mind came suddenly back to the present. All around me, faceless technicians came and went, occasionally adding marks to a Sharpie-map only they could understand.
A map on my body. On my physical person.
Another little tattoo was added to the mix. Sometimes I was spoken to, usually not.
And it is moments like this -- and there have been a handful throughout this journey -- when I feel less like a person with cancer and more like a cancer with a person.
Or maybe just like a cancer, period.
Only the cancer is gone now. This body belongs to me... right?
I began radiation treatments yesterday. Down one, 27 sessions to go. Five days a week.
Turns out that while they are doing the treatments, they draw on me some more with a Sharpie. I'll stop trying so hard to scrub it off. (The initial map-making was in the "dress rehearsal" appointment.)
As I lay there, I focused on the music in my ear-buds & blinked back the tears in the corners of my eyes.
You need to lay perfectly still, came a voice from somewhere beyond my line of vision.
I feel so grouchy about all of this and this morning I suddenly put it together: I don't WANT to be a patient anymore. I'm tired of leaving my crying child to go to yet another cancer-related doctor appointment. (When will the cancer be gone? she asks, pleadingly.) I'm tired of hospital gowns (even my own).
I'm tired of being Cancer Girl.
This body belongs to me. This body, this medical body, I want it back.
Breathe in. 1 down.
Breathe out. 27 to go.