This after a long discussion of what sort of cancer I'd had and how I'd recovered and what my further treatment would be like, if I had to have any. This after he'd asked how the psychosocial aspects of recovery had been, by querying "How's your social life*?" in his Muppety voice.
I turned around in the hallway after the weight warning and looked at him levelly. "I've been busy" I said, and walked out.
Because, really? The last thing on my mind since just about eleven months ago has been Weight Fucking Watchers and not eating too many calories.
The first Stupid Thing had come the day before, so maybe I was a little over-reactive.
A woman I work with very occasionally--maybe twice in three years--asked why I'd cut my hair. Before I could respond with something neutral and funny, another nurse said, grimly, "She had cancer and was afraid she'd lose her hair to radiation." Leaving aside whether or not it's quite sporting to scoop somebody on something like that, things got a bit uncomfortable.
Nice Lady I Barely Know had a lot of questions. I don't mind answering questions about what happened to me; very few people, after all, even think that head-and-neck cancer is A Thing, let alone that you can lose part of your palate to it. I answered as best I could, and then she said this:
"Well, at least you don't have anything to worry about any more!"
Nice Lady I Barely Know put her foot straight fucking into it with that comment. I *know* it was meant to be reassuring and optomistic, and I treated it that way, but really? I have more to worry about now than I know what to do with.
I have, for starters, a very much increased risk of developing another, different sort of oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Call it two to three times the risk of your average person: my mucus membranes have shown that they'll react badly to HPV infection, and that reaction won't go away unless my DNA gets reworked in the manner of a Time Lord's.
I also have, not to put too fine a point on it, a couple of surgical sites that will never heal any more than they've already done. That means that inhaling my food, wearing a big plastic or plastic-and-metal thing, and having to explain shit to people will never go away. I can't emphasize how much that's affected things up to this point: I wear a MedicAlert bracelet, I don't go out to eat as much (because I can never tell when something might decide to exit my schnozz rather than head toward my gut), I have to tell *every* medical person I deal with about the prosthetic. And then I have to explain. Again.
Which brings us to the Social Life aspect of the whole deal. I hadn't realized, until I'd talked to other young and young-ish cancer survivors, how much that can factor in to starting--or ending--a relationship. I've been on a couple of dates with a new guy, and now I wonder, every time he doesn't email or call, if he's flipped out either by my lack of anatomy or by the idea that he might be buying into something that could end Very Badly Indeed. I used to worry about my belly or my cellulite or that huge zit on my chin; now I worry about the fact that I have this thing in my past and this plastic thing in my present and future.
And, finally, I have something that normal people don't: An every-six-months reminder of what pure gutwrenching fear is like.
I have to get scanned in November. I'm dreading that, almost as much as I'm dreading the dentist visit I have in September, a year to the freaking *day* that Amanda the Hygienist found Lt. Lumpy. I'm dreading the chest CT I have to have next year, to make sure that the tumor didn't seed into my lungs. Every six months for the next couple of years I get to go back to the CT center, drink the barium, take the Valium, wobble out of the room after the scan, and go on to the MRI.
These things are just part of the deal, I guess. They don't make me any more special or tragic or brave or stalwart than any other person who had rogue cells cut out of her body. I actually had it easy by comparison to my pals like Lara and Nikki.
But. When my tongue, out of habit, traces the curve where Dr. Crane cut out my palate, or when I have to run for my prosthetic when the phone rings, or when somebody acts relieved because I only took a few days off and wasn't out for some health crisis, I remember.
I used to have a favorite dress. It was a double-layered thing from Gudrun Sjoden, a Scandanavian store, and it had tiny lines of ornate embroidery around the cuffs and hem and neckline. It's the dress I wore when I went to the dentist last year. It's still hanging in my closet. I haven't had the balls to put it on again. Maybe I will this year, when I go see Amanda.
It would be the first step in not worrying so much.
*"Social Life" meaning "sex life" to my doctor. Which, to give him props, was the first time I'd been asked about it by any medical perp involved in my care. But still: DO NOT WANT to discuss that with Dr. Muppet.