A few days ago, I went to Chapters, the big giant bookstore here in Vancouver. I proceeded to buy all of the breast cancer books in the store. There were six, not including the novels. I don’t want the novels. Then I went home and ordered several more off Amazon for good measure. Reading makes me feel better. I’ve now read most of the academic articles that show up on googlescholar about “very young women with breast cancer” and so now it’s time to move on to all the books in the bookstore.
When I read these books, I start to wonder. Sometimes I get angry that, even up to a week ago, I was eating french bread and toasting with wine and being really liberal with one of my favorites foods, cheese. I desperately wish I could go back in time, and maybe if I ate better I could avoid this. I wish I could turn back the clock and eat more mung beans. Less diet coke. More turmeric. As if this would have changed things. But I cling to the idea that if only… what could I have done, what should I have done? How could I have not cared more about what I was putting inside my body? Why didn’t I do regular breast exams? How come I didn’t notice it was lumpier? Why didn’t I say something sooner, find it before, recognize that living in this world is risky, and do something about my diet, the air I breathe, everything, a decade ago? What I wouldn’t give to turn the clocks of time back. I’ve probably had this thing growing inside of me for many years- somewhere between 3-10, they say. What if, if only, I wish…
I can’t turn the clocks of time back. I can’t control that. I’ve forever lost the sense of safety that was knowing, before, that I was healthy. I can’t get it back. There’s always going to be a possibility that a single cell has escaped, traveled through my bloodstream, taken up residence elsewhere in my body. The world isn’t safe anymore. My body isn’t keeping me safe. All those ideas about how tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, even the next decade should be, will be, could be– they all shifted in the moment the doctor called me to say, “I’m afraid it’s positive,” the second she answered “Yes” to “So I have cancer?” I wish I could grab the clock arms and swing on them, twist them, pull them until I could move them backwards.
There’s really very little I can control in this adventure. Very, very little. I can’t control when my appointments are, and I can’t move them when they fall smack in the middle of my teaching commitment. I don’t know enough to really talk to the doctors, and I can’t control the fact that I’m here in this cancer-world made for much older people, or at least, made for someone that’s not me. I am tied to the multitude of tests that I need to have to figure out what’s going on. Even though it seems like I should be able to walk into the hospital and say, “SEE ME FAST I HAVE CANCER,” it kind of falls flat when everyone has cancer.
What I can control is what I eat. And I’m terrified of eating something that will make it worse. And so today, armed with my list of breast cancer foods, like milk thistle tea and sprouted mixed beans and baby kale and flax seed oil, I went to Whole Foods. I never go to Whole Foods because its’ so pricey, and it’s so overrun with white people in Lululemon making a selection from a hundred different coconut waters, that, well, the veggie market and mostly local and sometimes organic is good enough for me. But today I didn’t care. I filled up the cart with organic licorice tea (something about estrogen receptors) and bulgur and wheat grass and beets. I felt triumphant when I read about how important vegetable juices are, and loaded up on organic veggies for my juicer. For some reason, the oddest thing I think I bought was mung beans. I just never thought I’d buy mung beans. I don’t even know how to make them, but the books all talk about mung beans. So I got some.
I spent $172.45 and I don’t even care.
Then I came home, and made a salad lunch with black sunflower seeds and spouts. It’s one thing I can control. So, here I am, drinking my green spirulina juice every morning and adding turmeric (which seems to be the spice of the most magical, magical powers) to mung beans and roasted cauliflower. So, out with the non-organic things. Tossed so many jars and bags and boxes this afternoon. I don’t care if its $172.45 every time I go.