Just say it already

Hmm. Also found this in Lost Ark-ives. From August 2012, when our roommate, cancer, moved in.

My MIL won’t say the word. She has told her friends that Troy is ill, or that he is having some health issues. It has been a while since we have talked, but even then, after his surgery, his diagnosis, the collapse in the testing facility, when we knew something was way more wrong than we had suspected, not once would she say “cancer.”

I feel for her. I was the same way, and I’m usually clinical to the point of being cold. Our children have epilepsy. Bipolar and schizophrenia run on both sides of my family. I don’t hide it, cover it up, run from it, sugar-coat any of it.

But when we found out Troy was missing about two-thirds of his blood, he looked at me , and sighed. “It’s got to be a tumor,” he said. To-the-point. Matter-of-fact.

“We’re not thinking that way,” I replied.

“It’s a vampire tumor,”  he continued. “There’s no place else for my blood to be going. I’m not bleeding, I’m not bruising. It’s a tumor. And it’s probably a big one.

“The insurance papers are on my stack of bills. You can get the kids’ college paid for with it.”

I shook my head and drove on to our errands. Two days later, he collapsed in the outpatient testing center, his BP so low that he lost his hearing and developed tunnel vision. His hemoglobin had dropped another point; the nursing staff couldn’t get even a drop of blood from either hand or either arm. Half the staff started making phone calls to the doctor, the PA. The other half hovered over him, called his name over and over, and poked more needles into his drying veins.

Somebody called a Code Blue.

The vampire, which had existed happily on Troy’s blood for at least a few months, felt the crisis, became angry and fought for its own life. Troy doubled over in pain.

Two hours later, we hooked Troy and the vampire up to four units of Type O blood, and fed them both.


Blah blah blah mass. Blah blah blah growth.

“It’s. A. Tumor. Say it.”

I finally said it. Tumor and cancer are nasty words. “Growth” can have positive connotations, as can “mass.” I thought about my great-grandmom, who believed certain words were more appropriate for ladies to use, so in our world, women were “expecting,” and not pregnant, children “reared” and not “raised.” Raisin’ was for hogs and cows. And if you heard her talk, you’d think I was a tree, because I had limbs instead of arms and legs. She certainly would have used the word “mass.”

But I’m learning to say cancer with the abandon of the word “cookie.” It’s what he has and is what we are fighting, and it’s freaking ugly and harsh, but beating around the bush won’t cure him. We have more words, too. PET Scan. R-CHOP, which is the type of chemo he is having. It used to be called “The Red Devil,” certainly to the horror of some marketing expert.

Infusion. B cells. L cells. T cells.

Fast-growth and slow-growth cells. Port. Hot spots.

A list of medicines that only a Latin teacher can pronounce.

Saying these words doesn’t make the ugly go away. It gives us a little more power in the fight, a little Sun-Tzu of “know one’s enemy.”

We know it’s cancer. We say it freely.


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