Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Waiting for the Results of a Biopsy

For Bryan
Like discovering a small tear in the fabric of your favorite sweatshirt, a cancer diagnosis induces reflection. Could you not have been more careful? Eaten better, slathered on more sunscreen, refinished furniture with less toxic components, or donned a mask on those smoke-filled summer wanderings? Or be born to a different family, in a different place, or at a different time? Started a relationship sooner?
Everything has a lifetime: in the photo above my father’s sweatshirt with that little tear had its lifetime, my first Volkswagen (which already had rusty floors when I bought it) had it, my childhood cat had his, and then there is you—you have a lifetime. Were you surprised about yours maybe coming sooner than you expected? I was. When my friend Missy died of pancreatic cancer in her early 60s, I regretted that her lifetime hadn’t extended into her 90s. I had always assumed we would run stairs together with our senior knees creaking out a rhythm. It is frustrating when longevity doesn’t match up with an individual’s capacity for living—particularly living with bright intentions, intellectual acuity, and beloved.
Waiting for the result of a biopsy is like waiting for an icicle to melt. It will melt in time, just as you will know the results of the pathology report in time; and yet, the result comes too slow and at the same time too fast. Too slow to ease the anxiety of what will be possible and too fast to entirely comprehend what might come next.
How much longer will your life last? Where have you not seen yet, who have you not loved enough, or what stories have you neglected to tell? Even those, who have faith they will somehow exist in another world beyond, surely have regrets in leaving this gorgeous plane of existence. They may dither about whether their spirit has garnered sufficient substance to even exist in the next world. (Don’t worry on this count, you tote gobs of good karma should there be an afterlife.) Prior to knowing the results of a biopsy, the tear in the fabric of your life is small, but it has become a slit through which worries and regrets slip.
I have often tried to photograph the very moment when a drop of water shapeshifts and falls earthward. Hence, my pleasure when I discovered a drop of sap dangling from the loose threads of a rope. Here was a drop for whom I didn’t need to wait. By the bounty of physics, it would test my capacity to hold a camera long enough. Its life as a drop would be extended. For you—waiting for the biopsy—your journey onward will not be precisely like you imagine. The scientific world, that incredible, innovative medical community in whose times we live, may help you hold your shape longer than might seem possible. And maybe not. Your days ahead, all of them, will be different. Mostly intense in a lovely sort of way. Celebrated for what was and what is. Shared by family and friends and acquaintances. There will be difficult moments though. Breath deep, gather your atoms, and stay with the rushing current of this life as long as you can. You are loved by many and we hold you with care. The biopsy will be what it is.