Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I wish the phone would ring.

An odd desire. Yearning for a harsh jangle to jar my solitude would seem a poor choice since it’s rare that I steal time to lie on my bed as I’m doing now. Not reading, not writing, not paying bills, just lying still with my cats.

I could be doing something constructive, like going through a decade’s worth of paperwork on the third floor as I’d planned to do this afternoon. But I don’t want to. I’m frozen next to the phone. Despite the whirr of the fan, the purr of snoozing felines and the soft touch of fur to skin, I’m roiling inside. I’m waiting for Dr. Bolton to call so we can talk about my next step.

All three of the cats are keeping me company. Most days, Raven curls, a shining ebony ball, in the swivel chair upstairs by the computer, but she is on my lap. Her brother, Fuzz, is quiet at my side. Usually, if his sister has a plum spot like this, he lavishes her with a false show of affection, licking and grooming her until she gives up and leaves. Not today. Toby, a gray tiger like his brother, is sleeping against my thigh. Have they gathered here, a little phalanx of comfort, because they sense my sadness?

I am resigned to this cancer. If the biopsy comes out clear, it will be a miracle.

No one knows yet. I haven’t even told Dave about the callback mammogram. Dave cheery and oblivious calms me more than Dave worried, but I must tell him now.

I am sick at the thought of telling Mom and Dad. My mother lost a dear friend to breast cancer fifteen years ago and that’s where her thoughts will run. Dad has been making too many treks of his own to doctors - for platelet and blood transfusions, a hernia operation, and cataract removal. It’s been my joy to be a source of cheer and consolation; I don’t want to add to their worries.

My daughter, Casey, has felt adrift lately. She recently broke up with her boyfriend and many New York shows are closing; it’s hard to find acting jobs. The spring was a time of transition for Tucker as well. It is not a good time for me to have cancer; I need to remain an anchor, steady and strong.

I think I could do this more easily if no one knew. And yet, it’s all I can do not to call my friends and tell them.

Before settling in on my bed with the cats, I studied my face in the bathroom mirror. I pulled my hair back tight and tried to block the frame of brown color with my arm. Not so bad. It might be weird to lose my eyebrows, though. When drawn in on others, they always seem fake, but maybe with eyeliner, my eyes will look okay. With my health at risk (how weird is that?), it’s silly to worry about appearance. But I want to see the woman who has always looked back, not a cancer patient. I want to know I am still the same person.

Raven stretches with content as I caress her. I dab at my nose with a wad of damp tissues. Positive thoughts are critical and I don’t want to jinx myself, but I can’t stop crying.

Casey has a picture of the two of us together on her bureau. We are sitting on a stonewall in the woods in the fall wearing jeans and burgundy sweaters. The sunlight is bright as a benediction on our hair. Without meaning to, I realize I am imagining it on display at my memorial service.

Not good.

I wish the doctor would call.