the beginning of the cancerversaries

On August 28, 2013, I had an ultrasound. The tech was so unimpressed with the lump that photo (1)she wouldn’t even invite the radiologist in. She did, though go out and speak to him, at which point I snapped this picture. For the next many weeks, I obsessed over this photo. I compared it to photos of cancer, of fibroadenoma, of benign lump in young women with the help of Dr. Google and her cousin, Dr. Google Scholar. I sent it to people who I deemed to have excellent googling skills-you know who you are- and we compared notes.

A few days ago, it was August 28, 2014. The day that marked the one year anniversary of the beginning of this massive mess, the one year point from when this picture took up residence in my phone and in that place in my brain in charge of anxious googling. photo (2)This time, though, it was different. On the 2014 occasion of August 28th, there were no ultrasounds. There was a phone call about a post-doc, and an art-night with a palette full of acrylics. Sammy made boat paintings, I started working again on the famed breast casts, though I left the “nice” one untouched. What a difference 365 days makes, and yet, what not a difference.

Still, images of breasts that bear only a passing relation to what you see underneath a sweater dominate the visuals. Images, and imaginings, of what is inside have morphed from the technological rendition of cells beneath my skin to the artistic rendition that so many have molded together in memory of what once was. Neither the lump in the ultra sound nor the left breast memorialized in the breast cast remain in the world. They are but mere traces.

On the left breast, I glued words from pathology reports, from medical notes, from surgery directions. On the right, I glued lines from random pages of my dissertation, but you bet I chose which lines. And then came the heart. Pumping blood, veins pulsing, over top, even though, in spite of the medical jargon, the hospital terror, the doctors’ reign. It’s not done yet, and neither is this season of cancerverseries. The calendar is filled with cancerversaries between now and the end of the year: the first biopsy, the first lumpectomy, the waiting, the diagnosis, the fertility, the first chemo….

And I, smart woman that I am, timed it so well. In case I should ever forget about cancer, we’re on the cusp of Pinktober, the breast cancer month, and the decorations are already being hung. They won’t let me forget! People are asking about the CIBC Run For The Cure, I am rolling my eyes about the number of breast cancer flags bordering the Cambie Street Bridge, and the bank employees have all donned little pink ribbons next to their name-tags. More on that, soon. For now, I should make some coffee and hunker down with my job letter, and the color-coded excel document of jobs and post-docs and opportunities and to-do lists. Maybe the academic job market will let me forget.