|Ilana on a swing at a baby shower last weekend.|
UPDATE JUNE 25: it turns out she simply has basal cell and not melanoma. We are very relieved. Still, grateful for support and it's been a hard week!
Last week, Ilana got diagnosed with melanoma. As she said in her Facebook note about it, it wasn't as much a question of "if" she got skin cancer, but more "when" - her father has had basal and squamish cell cancers both so far in his life. But melanoma is scary - it's the most severe and though her case is "3 out of 10 in severity" the name alone keeps rattling us.
Cancer, as a word, carries a lot of weight in my family. And fear. I've been working with panic and fear all week, trying to relax enough to feel the sadness underneath. Panic and fear can drive me into depression, anxiety, and then I am not really feeling what is going on: the deep awareness of impermanence, not as a concept, but as reality.
As Ilana said in her note:
I never broke a bone despite all of my time on a skateboard. I never became dangerously ill through my childhood and early adult life. No major accidents, no long-term risky habits. Very little death in my family. I never assumed I’d live forever, but I did have a misguided idea that I’d coast along for decades and somewhere down the road just not wake up one day. Nice and easy, no struggles along the way.This is a well-written reminder that even for a woman like me, someone who lost both of her parents and other relatives early, impermanence is still so easy to deny. Even with my experience - in comparison to hers - we are relatively on the same page. Human beings scared as shit.
The flip side - a both/and flip side, not either/or -is that we are also really treasuring each other. Savoring. When I am able to recognize the panic and dissociation, I can connect to the deep sadness underneath. And also appreciation.
Her procedure to have this tumor removed is in just over a month. They'll know more then - making sure it hasn't spread to any lymph nodes, etc, though they doubt that is the case. It's a deep tumor, all the way through the dermis, so there'll be some recovery. Then we watch and wait.
It is incredibly likely that this will NOT be what kills her.
I am reminded that, except for when we are pretending we won't die, or hoping there will be "no struggles along the way," we are all watching and waiting. Always. Cancer seems to make it more real, but the fact is either of us could go any day now, in any number of completely undiagnosable but perfectly normal ways. A car crash. A fall down the steps. Nothing so dramatic as melanoma.
And yet. Cancer. I am trying to respect it. And turn my fear into appreciation. It is a practice. A constant one.