When I worked third shift, I found that the secret to staying awake was to keep busy. Still, by the end of the shift, I was running out of things to do, and I would get bored. I would turn on the television. The place where I worked did not subscribe to the premium channels, so there was just the basic stuff. At 4 or 5 in the morning, that amounted to endless news shows with debating and arguing, infomercials, true life crime stories and supernatural stuff.
One night I watched a ghost hunter-type show. Now, I do believe that there are things that happen in this world that we cannot understand. Ghost stories are as old as mankind. I accept that there might really be ghosts and haunted houses out there. Am I going to go looking for the houses? Oh heck no. Am I going to run around trying to talk with the dead? Nope. There will be plenty of time to say howdy doo to them when I drop over dead myself.
But those television shows? The breathless ‘documentary-style’ reporting of dramatically hyped events cracks me up. The show begins with some assertions of scary stuff going on. Some fearless ghost hunters come dragging in all manner of dubious scientific equipment. After one night (which is hour in television time) they have proved that the place is haunted. In most cases, their ‘evidence’ would not hold up in a court of law.
One night, as I was getting ready for work, I was telling Tim about a program I had seen. I stood in the foyer at the French doors to the livingroom as he sprawled on the couch. This particular show had been laughably ridiculous, and in the end, hinged on one very flimsy piece of evidence.
The woman had talked about strange and ominous feelings and about strange noises in her big old house, a house that was, coincidently, about the same age as the house I live in. Based on these feelings, the woman called in some ghost hunter-types, who did a background check on the house and reported back that a person had (insert dramatic, ominous music here) DIED IN THE HOUSE. Based on little more than that information and the accounts of supposed eye witnesses, the house was deemed to be haunted. At the end of the show, the woman nodded her head sagely. She knew she had a haunted house. She could feel it. The ghost hunters were not telling her anything she did not already know.
I related all this to Tim and then turned to walk towards the bathroom calling over my shoulder, “Stupidest thing ever. I imagine every old house has had someone die in it. This house has had at least 2 people die in it. Based on their thinking, WE live in a haunted house.” I laughed derisively.
There was suddenly a very loud thud that vibrated the floors that I was standing on. I turned back towards the livingroom wide-eyed as Tim came bursting through the French doors. “What was that?” I asked. I said “It sounded like it came from the basement,” at the exact same moment he said, “It sounded like it came from the upstairs.”
I felt just like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, holding my tail tightly in my hands, with my eyes squinched shut repeating, “I DO believe in spooks, I do, I do, I DO!!”
Since that surprising night, we have continued to live in our house with no ominous forebodings or fears, until now. As August drew to a close, I found myself feeling discouraged and sad and hopeless. I could not put my finger on it, but every day seemed to add to the dark and oppressive feelings. I realized that I am haunted, in a very real way.
I have been pretty good about compartmentalizing things. Every autumn, I try not to think about it. There is no real purpose to marking those days, but I’ll look at the calendar and realize, “This is the day I found the lump,” or “This is the day of the mammogram,” (or the surgery, or the first day of chemo, or whatever.)
In my heart of hearts, I remember the day that the radiologist talked, and I tried so hard to be humorous, because if I was laughing, it couldn’t be THAT bad. I remember the conversations with my kids that I didn’t want to have. Struggles between Tim and I as we adjusted. One after another the milestones of that time are ticked off in my head.
This fall was my five year checkup. Five years is that point when you are cautiously prounounced ‘cured’ and I suppose that I have been, deep down inside, feeling superstitious about it, even though for the last four years I have heard the news that I’m cancer free.
Being a practical person, I approached the words ‘cancer free’ like I approach the ghost stories on television: I want proof, and that proof is always based on one thing, my most recent mammogram. What scares me, though, is that if the cancer reappears, it is most likely NOT going to recur in thereit will likely show up in my bones, my brain, my liver or my lungs.
I had my appointment at the cancer center in Erie. The doctor that I usually see is brief. The 10 minute appointment doesn’t tell me anything that I don’t already know, having received the mammogram results in the mail already. I always drive 1 hours home from those appointments with unanswered questions, with unrelieved fears. I always wonder what is wrong with me that I don’t feel excited to receive this good news.
This time, however, I saw a new doctor who had time to talk. And talk we did. I asked my questions. Her considered answers made sense to me. She encouraged the discussion. She asked as many questions as I did.
After the appointment, I drove home marveling at the huge harvest moon. I noticed right away that when I walked into my empty house, I heard something go bump in the dark. It was a jubilant cat bounding down the stairs, certain that his mama is going to open a can of tuna for him. The ominous forebodings and fears that have been pressing on me are gone.
For the time being, the specter of cancer has been laid to rest. I am no longer haunted.