To say the words feels equivalent to conjuring fiendish spirits. To write out the significance of this approaching month- this precarious, shifty month- feels equivalent to summoning thieves, to doing rain dances after cyclones. To give words to it feels heedless and irresponsible. If I speak the words, I evoke it, I summon it, I lift it wool-heavy from its timid placement on the coat rack. Instead, I do what I’ve learned best from the women in my life: balk, cower, and worry. Instead, I find myself like the woodpecker, knocking three times when asked, flitting to the nearest wooden peg during dialogue whenever asked, “And how is her health…?” This part of me whispers Shah! This part of me wants tight-lipped silencio!
But I have a choice in this matter and instead I speak. Instead, Reason flirts with Optimism, makes a sultry pass and I write.
This September is our one-month anniversary. This September is a hot racecar winding round the track a third time, and we do not know who or what grips the wheel. We wait for it while trying not to wait. In September 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. A lumpectomy and round of chemo later, we huffed and squatted at the finish line, by then already springtime.
Then like an annual summoning, like a court mandate, like a persnickety ex-lover, September 2007 arrived unwelcome back on our doorsteps. She didn’t want to race it again. She did it anyway. If I could’ve saved her…she saved herself. A double mastectomy and second year of chemo later, she tumbled leopard high, through the finish line. We waited, upholstered in Gatorade and banana. We waited, arm-wide. Strident with hoorahs.
It’s a funny thing when people ask, Is it gone? It’s not a miscarriage or a swallowed penny. It’s not an annoyingly lodged object that once gone, you are cleared of. (People seem to know this, but ask the question anyway.)
I’ve grown to know cancer as its own economy, fluctuating always, weakening strengthening, threatening to shake what I hold most valuable. We can’t know if and when it’s gone (exactly). We can’t know if and when it’s back (exactly). When people ask the money-question “Is it passed?” I presently quip- Oh! But it’s day by day.
This September 2008 marks the third September. There I have said it. But I am not afraid of staying silent, only of not speaking enough. And we are speaking bright and amber-tongued. This month also marks the celebration of her 60th birthday. I am not a jinxer (I declare) I am a daughter. And we are high leapers, living wild humble family-filled lives.