The Haunting

It’s pretty late and I’m upstairs in Zsolt’s childhood (teenage-hood) bedroom alone with the computer. Today I reckoned it’s been about a year since my mastectomy. So one year past diagnosis, and now one year post surgery. It’s funny, and it sucks, (so funny, like strange – not ha, ha, ha funny) how I am associating big dates with fucking cancer.

Today Zsolt’s family celebrated a collaborative birthday between Zsolt and I. He just turned thirty, and next week I’ll hit twenty nine. We were given some wonderful gifts (flowers, lottery cards, chocolate, a trip to the bath, clothing) but to knock everything out of the park, we were given an incredible painting which Zsolt and I had spotted several weeks ago, and Anna and Laszlo were kind enough to sneak out to buy. It’s now on Zsolt’s bedroom wall, and I think it’s grade-A beautiful – an abstract watercolour that reminds me of wind, and dust, and far off trees, with a field of dry grass and a storm rolling in . . . mind you, the painting is called, ‘island’ so I’m likely off the mark, but who cares? The great thing about this painting is that it is unique to everyone.

So today brought some lovely things, and, of course, lovely company. But in the midst of rapid Hungarian conversation (of which I understand very, very little) my mind began to drift . . . drift, drift, drift – and where does it go? Where it always goes. One year back, one year back, one year back . . . my mind always drifts, and it always goes there. I can’t even help myself – suddenly I’m lying in bed recovering from surgery, or I’m trying to walk following days off my feet, or my mom is urging me to eat, or I’m back in the chemo room getting a drip – and then *snap* Zsolt asks what I’m thinking about.


I think about it so often, it might as well be nothing.

Anyhow, birthdays now remind me of mastectomies. Maybe not forever. In time, everything will fade; this will be like the time I got a boil on my knee and had to stay inside for an afternoon . . . not a great day (I was like five back then), but just a memory – not an emotion, not an immersion. Will my thoughts ever stop taking me back there so vividly? I hope, at least, the sensation wears away. (except for the good stuff, I’d like to keep all that – there’s so much good stuff too . . . friends, family, jokes, crushes, meetings, marriages – so many better places my mind could wander, and yet it keeps returning to cancer like there’s some stupid magnet on the memory.)

Katie at The Daily Breast talks about this constant hum of cancer that haunts her. And I read her post today, nodding along, and thinking ‘how appropriate – this is exactly how I feel’ . . . because it is exactly how I feel.

Yes, I know that things need to move forward. And if I could disconnect this entire past year (if I could erase what has happened, with the promise that it will never happen again) maybe I would. Not sure. On one hand it has shaped me. On the other, it has also scarred me.

What about you? Would you remove a past pain, if you could be promised it’d never, ever, ever return? I guess a brave person would say no. But it’s tempting (as if this option actually existed), it’s tempting . . .

I love who I am, and I accept that cancer was once part of my life – but seriously, this habit needs to change. I guess there’s still much work to do, and much healing required. Time will tell. I’m counting on time.  

2 thoughts on “The Haunting

  1. I don’t think it will ever entirely go away. Moments may become more blurry and experiences less extreme. I hope I come out of it all of it for the better, but who knows who I would have become sans cancer.

  2. Hi Catherine,

    I think the bad memories will eventually go away, to the point where it becomes a date with no emotion attached to it. This will take time and you have two great resources to help you, your dad and your mom.

    Your dad has been a wonderful resource for me by taking my painful childhood memories away. With those negative memories gone, I now realize that I have many good memories that were hidden away. When I find them, they are like the mystical dance of fireflies on a summer’s night. What has amazed me is that when the bad memories go away, the good ones shine even brighter.

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