I was walking along east 23rd street this evening between Broadway and 7th Avenue and was struck by how much that stretch smells like pee. Honest-to-god, as much as people talk about New York being clean these days, between Chelsea and the Flat Iron District it always smells like pee. As I was walking through the pee cloud, it hit me that I had cancer in my spine.
No relationship between pee and cancer, but there it was.
It is actually kind of odd the way this works. You don’t think about it, but when it bubbles to the surface that is all that is there. When I got to the 1 train and descended into the subway pee cloud (because it isn’t New York in the summer if it doesn’t smell like piss, quite frankly) I thought, “Here I am surrounded by piss and I have cancer.” When the train arrived: “I’m sitting down and I have cancer.” And, “I’m riding the subway and I have cancer.”
“It’s in my spine,” I said to myself. And I welled up a little bit. My eyes got misty and I shook it off. But the thought was constant. I arrived uptown and ducked into the grocery store to buy a few things. The thought left me; I was going through my impromptu food list now.
Then I left the store and walked home. “I am walking home and I have cancer in my spine.” I welled up again.
Christ, it was only last week when I finally came to terms with chemotherapy as a given in my future. That seemed so unimportant now. How did it come to this, I thought? When did it happen? Why did I wait? Why didn’t I just call the doctor when I felt that tiny little pea six months ago? Why do I think I’m so goddamned indestructible? What was so important that every single day I would forget to call the doctor? Why was I so fucking stupid? Now I’ve got cancer in my spine and I’m the only one to blame.
As I got closer to home I remembered that this is what my mom calls “stinkin’ thinkin’.” It wouldn’t get me anywhere to focus on what I should have done. It would be a fool’s errand to wonder when those cells broke loose and if I could have even stopped it. It is now time to go forward. Focus on that which I can actually do.
As I crossed the street to my building and pulled out my keys, I was grateful that I have a top notch medical team that will work with me to manage this disease. I was thrilled that I have so many friends, both here and around the world that are going to be with me all the way. I have my mom and family. And I have my feline friends who make me smile every day.
And, honestly, I’m really grateful that I live in a neighborhood that doesn’t smell like pee.