I remember as a child of about 9, when my older cousin talked about breaking up with his girlfriend (they may have been all of 13 or so), and he called her a "whore." When asked "what's that?" he explained that a whore is a woman who will trade sex for money. Well, as a somewhat naive pre-adolescent, I at first didn't believe this at all-- no one, especially a woman, would do that. It didn't fit my picture of the world. Just thinking about it was alarming, and the level of alarm made me think about it a lot! I wasn't sure I wanted to live in a world like that. It became an infected wound with a hard scab over it, which I picked and poked and scratched and kept the wound fresh for days. I may even have asked my Mom about it, though I don't think so-- by then I was just old enough to know what were the taboo subjects, and this was obviously one of those.
Other truths I experienced as such searing, blistering experiences were the Holocaust-- which my father told my brothers and I about when I was about 10 years old-- and when I found my Mom in bed with George the antique dealer when I was about 13 or so. I can understand people who go out of their way to avoid deep, painful truths like these, or who attempt to protect their loved ones, especially children, from them. Sometimes the truth is terribly painful, and the pain of learning it overwhelms the objective value of knowing it in the first place.
So this long lead-in is just to say that learning about my cancer, and thinking through all of the implications of that for my mortality has been another of those blistering, hot-cheese experiences. I am being diligent in learning as much as I can about the disease and the treatment options, and being carefully observant of possible symptoms and my own bodies reaction, but I have to admit there are moments when I experience nothing but that instantaneous scalding, searing pain of hot cheese against my face. I peel it off, but the hurt stays. I touch it, because it feels like the cheese is still there. I'm going to be fine, but I'm not going to be the same. My inner rationalist wants to know everything, my inner cynic is happy it's all turning out as badly as planned, but my inner 9 year old has his eyes popping open and his ears covered, and he's shaking his head "no." It hurts.
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