What We Carry

A few days ago, I called to get the results of my recent biopsy. As the receptionist put me on hold, I had a momentary flashback to 1996…the year of my last biopsy. I was 19 at the time and therefore invincible (or naïve?) and 100% confident that everything would be fine. Now, almost two decades after that surgery and subsequent benign result, I was not surprised at all when the nurse picked up the phone and said, “Actually, it’s skin cancer.”

I had just seen one of my favorite movies “St. Elmo’s Fire” and there’s a scene in which Wendy (played by Mare Winningham) says to Billy (played by Rob Lowe), “My mother finds certain words too horrible to utter…so she whispers them.” In the next very funny dinner table scene, we learn that “cancer” is one of those words.

Clearly there is, and always has been, a stigma about cancer; by definition, “an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells.” The first thing people want to know after finding out they have it is: is it the bad kind or the good kind? I’ve been told I have the “good kind.”

To be more specific, I have a pea-sized mark on my back. It’s what I carry.

I found it remarkable how, after the doctor took the sample, “it” grew back despite the wound as if to demonstrate just how stubborn it could be. It was nagging at me…and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to surgically remove it.

I started to think: if we only remove a small piece of the disease (i.e., pain, emotional baggage, trauma) from our bodies, it never really goes away, does it? We have to try and remove the entire thing and then continue to “keep an eye on it” to ensure that the peace within us will always be much stronger than any disease, no matter how big or small. As we spend our lives healing our souls and cleansing our minds, we know it’s inevitable not to ever carry a mark.  But we can make damn sure that it doesn’t threaten our outlook that the best is still yet to come.

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