Stages

As I’ve shamelessly mentioned before, I had four pieces recently published in Euphemism.  I won’t lie. I’m happy the piece below was published.  It has lingered with my for the past two years.

I first wrote it the week before my thyroid surgery.  Swelling with emotion, the pieces was bulky, rambling and not that great. I didn’t do anything with it, but I couldn’t scrap it.

Out of surgery and rockin'

A scar of words.

Until a few months ago, I felt removed enough from the piece to do my work justice. I edited and reworked. And while it’s not perfect, I think that its a pretty spiffy piece.

Stages
Rachael Stanford

i

I gazed at you, my neck pillow-propped strained to an awkward, unnatural angle, in that painfully white, sterile room.

Forty-eight tiles: four vertical rows, twelve horizontal.

I tried to breathe as I was serenaded into serenity by the nurses’ chattering. They paused in song to lick their obese blood-red lips as I faded.

You are amazingly beautiful. The shadows and curves of your cells, illuminated by the ultra-sound machine’s soft glow, could hang in the walls of any pretentious, stuffy contemporary art gallery as rich old white men, their fat bellies tucked into overpriced suits, drowning in desperate art students, who gleaned over their clothes for hours until ever iota was painfully mismatched, debate our meaning.

You moved as I to greet the doctor. I wondered if this was the closest I’d ever be to a mother.
His lips mouthed, “there mostly likely is nothing to worry about,” but the flash of fear that invaded the pupils of his cold blue eyes illuminated more than any syllables could.

My heart raced, coursing through my veins, your breakfast.

The irony of my unawareness struck deeply during the next few days. As I waited, you, my one tiny cell, festered, a parasite feeding off of me, slowing depriving my body of nutrients.

I went on.

It was just another Tuesday.

If only….

Random events-the alarm you swore you set that never rings, the falling of that one last screw needed to hold it all together- that you and I can assign meaning to (after the fact) to validate anything. Now, my friends, family, nurses, doctors and strangers, can tell us with a forced smile that everything in this life happens for a reason.

I should be grateful, because God only tests us to make us stronger. Just think how strong I will be after I beat my own body into submission. Not you, though, my precious. You will be dried out, poked, prodded and laid on some microscope lab for a stranger to ogle you in your unabashed nakedness.
Yet, I am not grateful.

The words from the other end of the line, her voice light and airy as if reporting the weather, didn’t register to me at first.

But, you do.

My little one, you are your momma.

You are broken. You cannot thrive or evolve to spread your wings to other parts of my body, but can only grow in your own obesity, like a fat spoiled child given too much birthday cake, until you press against my windpipe, or artery, or some other organ and damn us both with your suicidal tendencies.

ii

I still hoped that you and I wouldn’t part as I waited in the Ax man’s room. This was a bad dream. I only had to roll myself out of bed and let the floor smash against my face. The blood-sweat droplets rolling down my cheeks into my lips will choke me to consciousness.

But as I stared at the wall-painting, a blatantly recognizable reprinting of Americana, the little nondescript boy, his features so amorphous that he could pass as my own, smiling at me, I knew I was awake.

There were options, are options, and always would be options. Too many options: different choices on what part of me to cut out, on how much to cut out, on alternatives that strangers who can type swear cured all.

The choices swirled about the air, a tiny tornado only we could see. I could try them all, dive in and swim around, let their water fill my lungs, but the time on the clock ticks away into your cells. I wonder how long you and I could take it.

“You already know you’re going lose it right.”

We didn’t.

iii

We are alone. You and I and that creepy reprint that bastardized the walls with its assumed art. His eyes followed me as I paced the room. I wanted to rip it down, wanted to scratch it away, paint chip by paint chip, starting with the clear, pure blue eyes of that smiling boy, slowing working my way down his neck, until my bleeding fingernails tear through the canvas and stain the snow-white walls.

I wanted to permeate into the cold walls. I needed the permanence.

I don’t know what you thought, or even if you think. Are you prokaryotic or eukaryotic? Are you a gift from God or the Devil? Are yu a mark of my uniqueness or a mar showing that I’m just another genetic runt that science kept alive?

I desperately want to know.

iv

“If you have to get cancer this is the cancer to get.” The Ax man said.

You are the belle of the ball, my little one. You, nestled in the muzzle of my neck, could surely feel the vibrations of my vocal cords, massaging you with every sob.

My farewell gift.

I could have asked a thousand questions. I should have. But, all I could ask, how long will my scar be?

Only a few inches.

A large tribute considering you’re smaller than a pea.

I know it is of little consolation but your tombstone will be etched into the soft, supple folds of my skin for all to see.

As I slumber, as you slumber, the Ax man will gently cut into my pale skin, peeling it away layer by layer until he rips the beast from me. Until he rips you from me.

v

I love you.

You must know that.

I love you.

Scars: Why I wasn’t creative this week and further why I don’t care

A flap of flesh. A tiny dotted-line memory, etched skillfully, tucked away in the meandering folds of flesh that drape my collar bone and diligently maintained by a vain 25 year-old. A slumbering tomb, hardly visible to the naked eye unless you know its detail.

I had a blog post ready for last Friday, patting myself on the back for maintaining my challenge both in submitting and maintaining my writing throughout the week. But before I had time to proof it, I ran to the doctor for a semi-routine visit to examine Lumpy, the mass of tissue that has lived in my right breast for the better part of eight years.

“We want to biopsy it. Find out what is in there.”

“Is it cancer?” I blurted out.

A look of surprise rushed over the doctors’ faces, but nothing mattered after what I had spoken. I wasn’t there but body, my mind, flashing back three years….

The moon’s pall flooded the winding cornfields as my friend Nick and I raced down the forgotten road, in his father’s new sports car. I stuck my head out the window, letting the wind entwine my fingertips, wishing I could float off to the heavens. 3 a.m. screamed for random road trips, rages in the dark. Who was I to ignore the—

“Shit!” Nick yelled.

“Huh?”

I pulled my head in as the car hit the gravel, an instant fishtail at eighty miles per hour. The headlights illuminated the ditch, as I waited for time to slow down and my life to flash before my eyes. Nothing.
Nothing but the slow sinking feeling that I was going to die.

But I digress. The story doesn’t lie in twisted metal, flashing red lights, or the rush to the emergency room. That was but a snowflake, the first among the thousands that blocked my view as I wandered along, until at the end of the storm: a call in the wee hours of the morning.

That is where out story begins.

“It’s a cancerous tumor. You’ll have to have it removed.”

A tiny cancerous pea slumbering in my thyroid, Gertrude, who had served me well until this time.

The next three months were a doctoral comedy of errors from the first doctor not being able to read my MRI to the surgeon prescribing me the only drug I couldn’t take for my ablation. I have tried now, for the better part of three years, to write about my experience. But the words twist about the room and no matter which order they arrive in the same hallow casing. No words could describe the mixture of fear and agony that came to pass. It is a fire. One has to touch the flame to completely comprehend.

ImageA bevy of harsh truths surfaced: I can no longer survive the zombie apocalypse without pharmaceutical aide. Being radioactive does not give you super powers, but rather just makes you throw up radioactive vomit.

All of this, I could take. But, the knowledge, facing my mortality, at such a young age, realizing that I was not yet ready to die and the lingering fear left behind, that was another story.

As I left the doctor’s office last Friday, I handled the situation, the very slim chance that I had a cancerous growth in me (the doctors had even told me it was most likely benign) with the grace and dignity befitting of a 28 year old woman. I ran home to my mother and father and cried on their couch for three days straight convinced that, like last time, something would be wrong.

The next four days were a haze of doctor visits, work and curling up on the couch, trying to reassure myself that I was in fact being irrational. I failed until Thursday, when I got the results back.

It was benign.

I would usually berate myself for losing a week of life. However, I am working on acceptance and with that comes the knowledge that we are all a collection of imperfect stitches, carefully but tenuously sutured up and sometimes, we rip at the seams.

Now patched back up, I dust myself up and prepare to start over again.