The Cat Scan Scat

The next step. Radiation. I am scared. I don’t necessarily think radiation is the ‘right’ thing to do, or the ‘wrong’ thing to do. Time moves us forward with no regard for our indecision. I must make a choice. I recognize that whether right or wrong, this experience is a taste of an adventure that is inevitable and unavoidable. We all must meet death with a most intimate embrace. I am tender to the touch, confused continuously, in pain. The pain is like a liquid that drenches, flows, eddies throughout this vessel. It’s ephemeral, yet indeed in the body. It’s my heart that aches underneath those pliable ribs, spreading by the rivers of veins swollen with blood that run along the oceans of fascia, that heart that is gripped by my breathing lungs. And what is this water that empties from my eyes and drips off the line of my jaw? My skin is burned by the salt. I am an ocean on a deserted shore. Today meditation was hard... or was it easy? My mind was blank, staring into the flame, unmoving, just breathing, aware of the light overcoming darkness, no thoughts, though, empty and numb, I pondered if that’s considered meditation. What do you say? Well I thought I’d tell you the cat scan story because inside the numb is a universe of sensation and infinite consciousness witnessing from the inside. Quite a paradox: the infinite is inside. So yeah, I got a cat scan the other day. I wasn’t prepared. I thought I was coming in to ask more questions about getting radiation and make a final decision, but no, once you dip your toe in, Big Brother is behind you with a push and then splash, you're all in. So they shoveled me down the long windowless hallway, had me sign some papers, gave me a gown, and I just let it all happen. I mean, yes, I had decided to do the radiation in my head, but when my body was there and the doctors, technicians, and advisors surrounded me, it felt as if there never was a decision to be made in the first place. This was the only way. Feels a bit like trickery. My guide: a balding man with a sweet smile on his face, holding my paperwork in hand. He was the kind of guy who put his pointer finger on the center of his glasses when pushing them back towards the top of his nose. (I’m a one-hand-on-the-side kinda gal). I can’t remember his name, but he walked me into the room they call ‘the vault’. Walls, floor, and ceiling made of 3 feet of cement deep in the basement of a building made to accommodate the cancer machine, or would you call it a business? Problem solving is hard especially when just as many people benefit from the problem than suffer from it. Buildings just like this are littered around this country like confetti on New Years Eve, but we don't celebrate it. Radiation always happens under the earth, in hiding. Do you know how a Cat Scan works? You lay on a slab and get pushed into the hole of a gigantic metal donut that has an X-ray beam spinning around one part of your body. They collect all these images from many different angles. A computer uses this information to create a cross-sectional picture. Like a slice of bread, it shows a “slice” of the inside of your body. This process is repeated and you get a number of slices. The computer stacks these pieces one on top of the other. Like a puzzle, you start to see a detailed image of your organs, bones, and blood vessels. Sweet natured balding man explains what will happen, “We will line your body up just right and tattoo points around your chest in order to fine tune where exactly that ray of light will go.” That ray of light will pop the cancer bubbles that might be floating around in this body that I feel so disconnected from. I have never perceived my body as anything but invincible. This is not familiar to me. Only a few months ago, that word, cancer, wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I was fearlessly immortal. So he has me lay down on a board with my head at the entryway of the large donut shaped machine. There is a sheet underneath me. The room is so cold because this machine gets so very hot quickly that if they dont keep the atmosphere at a low temperature it could catch on fire and explode. There are red laser beams crossing this way and that over my torso. He tells me not to move. He tells me to be completely relaxed. He says “try to act like you're....” and then I say “Dead?” He says, “Uh, yeah.” I say “it’s hard.” He says “I know.” I say “I'll pretend I’m dead.” He says, “yeah, okay.” He's sweet. I like him. I’m laying on the sheet. He adjusts my dead body so they know where the direct hit needs to be. Christine comes in. She has a clipboard and glasses on. She doesn’t look as old as she probably is because her hair is dyed black, but I can see the grey roots. She is also sweet. I like her. She knows how to work the machinery. It is evident that mood is more real than facts. The atmosphere is affected by our attitudes and offerings. The vault is more like a nest with these two kind and calming creatures. I am on my back looking up. My arms are lifted and holding bars above my head. I am literally baring my burden, tits all in the open, surrendering to this process and their eyes are on me. It is challenging to relax, but it is soothing to have them gaze down so intently, repeatedly placing the tip of a finger on my sternum at the base, then closer to my throat, then back to the base of my sternum, tipping their heads a bit to the left then to the right, pulling the cloth underneath me, touching my sides, reminding me to relax. With all that attention my body starts tingling and thin veins of warmth swim up my spine and throughout the continent of my being. I sigh and say, “I haven't felt this kind of attention for so long.” They laugh. And while I say it feels so good Christine says, “doesn’t it feel good?” We smile. Finally they think it's all good and the x’s mark the spot. While laying on the slab naked from the waist up arms open like wings above my head showing my belly like a begging dog, I ask him, “Why is it that we do radiation to lower my chance of getting cancer, yet radiation causes cancer?” He says, “that’s a very good question.” I say, “thanks.” I am proud of myself. He tells me, “The radiation kills the cancer cells. These mutated cells can not survive it, but any damage it does to your other cells will heal. Your healthy cells can heal.” This makes me so happy to remember that most of my body is still mine and wants me to be here, wants to heal whatever is hurt. They both shuffle off to hide behind a wall for protection leaving me in the heart of what they fear, they leave me for playing dead. They flip some switches like OZ behind the curtain, and the conveyor belt I lay on jolts and begins its slow procession into the donut that spins and whirs. I focus on my slow deep breathing. My head tingles. I don’t move. I get pulled further in. There’s a whizzing humm spinning around me. I am the center. And it goes on. And I am all alone. They are behind the wall. There is something happening that I cannot see and I don’t know when it will end. They didn't tell me that. An impulse begins to brew inside. I want to scream, wiggle, shake, but they told me not too. I want to please them, be the good student, so I don’t move. All this energy begins to condense down into my pelvis. And then as I stare up into the beige metal that is only inches above me, I cannot focus on it so it looks like its a thousand miles away as well as painted on my eyeballs. I am lost in a sea of sensation, inside a vast beige universe and I realize that I might be building up to an orgasm. If I can’t move it will all condense into the root center of my body and explode. My mouth will open and they will know. Holy Shit…. I'm gonna have an orgasm. How about them apples! (Side note: I had an orgasm while giving birth to my second child, so hell, let’s add a CT Scan.) Well fortunately or unfortunately, I did not. My focus shifted when a voice came over the loudspeaker, “Now take a deep breath.” So I did. In so many ways, relinquishing yourself to a system is strangely freeing. No struggle with choice anymore. “Hold that breath.” The voice echoed. I held it, a bit desperately. They were taking an xray picture of the inside of my chest to see how far that damaging ray of light could be kept from my heart, my soft tender heart. When you inhale deeply, your expanding lungs are like to big mamas hugging the heart and keeping it safe from the cruel world. Their backs turned like a great wall of protection around that sacred source of life. They whisper, “We will protect you, dear heart.” This is what scares me. What if my heart gets in the way? This is what makes me realize that faith is essential and I am not sure where mine is placed. Stepping into the future with confidence, one needs faith. I could tell you the rest of the story, how after they were done, he gave me pointers because I guess that desperate holding of the breath wasn’t quite right or how they said it would all be okay and that they said they’ll see me in April and have a good day. I could tell you about walking out of the building and watching the man in a wheelchair throw up in a bag because I guess the chemotherapy session didn’t sit well with him, and the woman with the oxygen tank and the rail thin arms throwing her cigarette out on the ground and I stepped on it because it was still burning or I could tell you about the sunlight filtering through the still bare branches of the cherry trees and how the wind had the scent of spring resting upon it. And if I did tell you all those things I would still be caught in a quandary of questioning my faith, my beliefs, my destiny.

Posted on April 7, 2019 .