I know what is coming before she speaks. I have been sick with anticipation since the biopsy. For five days I have been waiting, waiting for this moment and suddenly my phone is ringing and I've answered it and already I feel something like terror. I ask the waitress, please, can I borrow a pen and some paper? And while we wait, I imagine the nurse on the other end of the line tapping inpatient fingers against her desk. But I need another moment. I just need one more moment.

Melted ice cream on sidewalkFinally, somehow, I've gotten myself up out of my chair and I'm walking toward the riverfront, my limbs moving through space against a heaviness like wet concrete. I hold the phone tightly in one hand, plugging my other ear against the chatter of strangers in sundresses and business suits sipping their summer cocktails. I feel disoriented and dizzy, drunk with disbelief. The sun's reflection off the water is blinding. I close my eyes, attempting to steady myself in darkness, and I say, "It's not good, is it?"

"No," she echoes me, "it's not good."

And there it is. And here I am. Am I still here? I wonder if anyone will catch me when I faint. I am sure I will faint. My insides seem to be unfolding, rising up and up, and I taste metallic on my tongue. I have to swallow, or I'm afraid that I will faint.

She has already moved on, articulating details that I can't digest. I am trying, trying trying to follow, I really am. But she is telling me about my cancer, and I am crying, and people are starting to stare. I don't care. I don't care!

I call my husband and when I reach him, before he can even speak, I blurt "It's cancer!" into the receiver. I can't carry this word all by myself. I spit it out, cancer cancer cancer, thick metallic word vomit spewing through the phone. I get it all out of me and all over him, and then I don't know what else to say. I'm trying to ask him to find me, find me find me. I'm asking him to keep me from melting into the ground.

And later, at home, I think we both have ringing in our ears from the explosion. I wilt over the knot that has settled in my chest. I find myself forgetting to breathe.

It is a Tuesday in July. We have plans with a friend at the beer garden blocks from our house, so we go. It's a beautiful night. I pretend not to have cancer. I pretend not to have cancer while at the same continuously reminding myself that I have cancer. The beer tastes stale but I drink it anyway, swallowing the weight of those words. It's cancer it's cancer it's cancer. They are finding a home in the pit of my stomach.

Steve is next to me. People around us are laughing with their children and their dogs and their beers and their cancer-free lives. We don't say anything to our friends, or to each other. And then finally, finally we are left alone in the sticky stillness of dusk. This day is almost over. He grabs my hand and we walk home in the cool of the summer evening. I watch as the disappearing sun splits the sky in half and purple pulls itself down over the hill.

There isn't much to say, or I don't know how to say it. So, I don't.


Share Your Thoughts

What do you remember about the day you were diagnosed? What was your initial reaction and how did you share the news with loved ones? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Marloe's passion for women's health and wellness has intensified with her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, at age 29. Despite her professional experience in oncology, traveling through the cancer world was mystifying and lonely. Finally on the upswing of her treatment, she is continually looking for ways to support others who are facing this incredibly personal journey.

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Maria Voermans
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Marloe! Beautiful, eloquent description of such a horrible moment in time. Thank you for sharing!!!

Cassie Maier
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Beautifully written Marloe. Congratulations on beating cancer and helping others in your fight.