Life Isn’t Fiction (And Thank God)

I’ve been distracted lately. (Ha, understatement.) March approached, promising an impressive conjunction of life events that sent me into a familiar state of panic-paralysis. I’m not good at waiting (ask Santa) and my anxiety started to chart up higher as every day passed.

Why the freak-out?

Well, my brain thinks fiction. All the time. Whatever I’m watching, doing, writing, or observing, it all gets tweaked in my writer-brain and sends my over-active imagination into full gear. And that includes my life.

I’m taking a big step and walking away from my current job. Not into nothing, mind you, but into contract work that hopefully will be extended or lead to other short-term contracts. I’ve been saving up my dollars as miserly as I could without feeling totally deprived and I have built up a small nest egg. The pay at the new position is much better than what I’m making now and will be significantly less stressful. I’ve been sitting on this news since the third week of February because I’ve been afraid that if I gave too much notice at my current job they would find a way to let me go earlier.

Add all the job stress to my medical tests, normally a yearly event but given a six-month twist after the last results in the fall.

See, I had cancer. This year is my 10-year anniversary since its diagnosis and removal. I’m pretty cagey about talking about it, as it’s private, but also for two reasons:

1) It was ‘the best cancer you could get’ (so they say): thyroid cancer. Lucky girl, we caught it early, too. They go in, pull back the skin around your neck, remove the offending material (and they took all of it) and sew you back up. Take your prescription for the rest of your life and we’ll keep tabs on you. Off you go. Which leads to …

2) I feel sort of attention-whorey bringing it up or having to explain it. I didn’t have to go through all the horrors that so many patients that are diagnosed with cancer have to survive — there was no chemotherapy, no anti-nausea drugs, no losing my hair for me. Just surgery. Do not get me wrong. Very, very grateful that it was as easily dealt with as it was. But it feels like I had cheater’s cancer, that it wasn’t the real thing and so I have no right to worry over it or get so worked up about it.

I do, though. I’m always expecting it to come back. Just you wait, that little voice says. It’ll come for you. And since they kept finding a wayward lymph node in my ultrasounds these last few visits, they wanted to take another look and sooner rather than later.

Cue the panic.

Because if my life was fiction, this would be the time when everything goes wrong. I’m leaving my albeit stressful but relatively secure job into unknown territory with no benefits, no insurance*, to focus on writing and editing during the lulls between contracts. Wouldn’t it be fiction-perfect for that test to come up positive? Now would be the time, writer-brain thinks until I can’t think of anything else, so get ready for the blow.

But life isn’t fiction.

And, yay.

Tests have come back clean. Back to yearly visits. They lowered my thyroid dose, so I should be less addled. I’ve handed in my notice and I have four more days at the old job before leaping into the next. I’ll have my mornings again, since it’s the night shift. I’ve missed writing in the quiet, private hours when I’m at my best before heading to the day job. All the tension in my shoulders, neck, and head are gone, and I’m sleeping again, which is wonderful. Better for my health, my sanity, and my writing. I’m so excited.

This has run overly long, and I have writing to do.


* By no insurance, I mean life insurance, disability, and drug and dental coverage. I am Canadian. I say with no trace of hyperbole that if not for the Canadian health care system I would be either dead or have been bankrupted as a result of diagnosis and treatment. They caught my cancer very early, when it was just the smallest of tumors. Without free health care, I likely would have been diagnosed after it was much more visible/palpable and made me at risk for a worse diagnosis.

Ironically, the cancer was detected during a routine and free physical exam necessary in order to be prescribed birth control. Ask me how pre-marital sex saved my life! (I need to get that on a button.)

5 thoughts on “Life Isn’t Fiction (And Thank God)

  1. Wow. So much of this post hit home with me. If you’ve been following along, you know that my life has been in complete upheaval too – new home; new life. (Still no job.) But the stinger was that “the best kind of cancer” thing … we heard that a few years ago when my then-22 year old daughter was diagnosed with – surprise! – thyroid cancer (and, simultaneously, with Rheumatoid Arthritis … which was the cause of the weird joint pain that sent her seeking medical attention in the first place.) I saw (and still see) her going through that same sort of self-admonishment. Cancer is cancer, it’s scary as hell, and you both kicked its ass. Good for you.

    1. Steph

      Gah, 22! I was diagnosed at 29. I couldn’t imagine my response had I been diagnosed that young. (Not that it was all that great at 29…) But what a weird way to phrase it, eh? When my doctor came out with that, I’m sure I did a double-take. (Apparently diagnosis-rates dor thyroid cancer are becoming more frequent, but they aren’t sure why. Which is kind of scary, because detection seems to be so accidental.)

      Good luck on the job hunt! It will click into place for you soon, and the dust can settle, you can look up, and go, “Ah!”

      (Thanks for posting. I’ve never really gotten to talk about it with anyone else who had gone through it before. It’s a relief to know my reaction isn’t unique!)

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