I'll Know. But Until Then, I Won't


San Francisco blurred by.

A guy was washing his hair next to a port-a-pottie in front of the Civic Venter. At the red light, I watched him soap up and wondered how he was going to rinse.

Next to me in the back seat, a Norwegian American told me about the wedding she’d be attending in Sonoma, but I was lost to the world, tuning her out, catching every third word of that oddly lilting accent Scandinavians have when they speak their perfect English.

I was in SF in an Uber-pool car, an option for the true tightwads among us, here to check on my cancer status.

It’s a weird ritual I do every six months. I board a plane in the desert, fly for an hour or so and then check myself into the hospital. Because of my insurance nightmares, I don’t dare switch my care to a local provider. I can’t risk being cancelled again because of some technicality they don’t tell you about until it’s too late.

“You should have read your policy,” my insurance agent Tom Lincoln told me after our house burned down and he didn’t cover the loss. That was shortly after Obamacare cancelled my healthcare insurance which was shortly after my cancer diagnosis.

So I fly to San Francisco, and I like being here anyway. I like the peekaboo views of the Bay, the long steep hills and the prehistoric-looking flowers some people have in front of their houses.

My plan today is to walk to the hospital from the other end of the city, and when Fitbit tells me I've reached ten thousand steps, I’ll hop in an uber. Then I’ll sit in the waiting room with a lot of other terrified women in flimsy striped hospital gowns. A lady I like will smash my boobs, crush them, have me shove in closer and crush them again, again, again. Then I’ll go back and wait some more. Sometimes, someone near me will be crying.

I don’t cry in there. I have an odd feeling of acceptance, of just waiting to see. It might be because I tune into God so much of the time, but it might also be because the first part of my life, my earliest childhood, was so fraught with pain and terror that cancer is easy by comparison. My five-year-old self braced me for whatever was to come. Nothing will ever be as hard as it was for me to be five.

So my tennis shoes are on. My peanut butter sandwich is packed. And off I go. By the time I get back here, I’ll know if there’s poison spreading throughout my body like mold spores in a humid loaf of bread. Or if the blast of chemo, the artful surgery, and the endless radiation achieved its mighty purpose.

I’ll know.

And until then, I won’t.

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