I know in my last post I said I wasn’t going to cook meth Breaking Bad-style, but that was before I realized how much my COBRA payment was going to be. I’m baking cookies for tomorrow’s community garden meeting, so I’ll see how that cooking experiment goes before I set up my lab.
Still, I’m grateful to have COBRA to carry on with my health insurance while I look for a new job. The opthamologist I saw the other day asked me what COBRA stood for, as I gave him the abbreviated story of my Hodgkin’s lymphoma, my job loss and my insurance situation. I later discovered it stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. But it’s aptly named because it poisons your soul and sinks its fangs into your unemployment check.
I had made an appointment with this new doctor after nearly three weeks of a lingering eye infection. My boyfriend suggested him from the list of opthamologists within my insurance network because, according to this doctor’s credentials, he also has a degree in philosophy from Yale. Perhaps he would understand my existential crisis and anguish brought on by wearing my glasses. Also, he had an appointment open right away.
I knew I made the right selection when, after hearing my health tale, he made the following analogy: “I think the eye infection may be the least of your concerns,” he said. “It’s like World War II is going on, and the eye infection is a battle for a small island.”
He’s right, of course. I have been focusing on my eye problems, though I could argue that my nearsightedness makes it even harder to see the big picture.
Things are still going pretty well, all things considered, but this past week I’ve been plagued with random pain twinges more than usual. It’s not that they’re even that painful, just puzzling. And slightly alarming. Like someone’s playing Operation and hitting the sides. Stop dropping the spare rib already!
Right now for instance, I have a slight twinge in my abdomen. What’s in there? My liver? Then the worries begin.
One of my favorite funny writers, Laurie Notaro, describes the random pain pangs of being in her thirties in I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies), as being located in areas devoid of major organs, “places I thought were used for extra storage, for things like extra bile, a couple of feet of rolled-up intestine, balls of hair that may come in handy in the future, maybe some additional vein parts, or bits of corn.” In the book, Notaro worries she has cancer, and I don’t mean to alarm you, hypochondriacs, but that’s exactly what it feels like. Or at least that’s what my chemotherapy side effects feel like.
The other side of my chest has twinges too. And my arm socket is sore, as is the back of my neck on my less cancerous side. My doctors, at least, aren’t alarmed. When I bring these things up, the answer is, “Well, you have Hodgkin’s lymphoma and are undergoing chemo.” So I try not to worry, even when it feels like someone’s been messing with the wishbone again and my nose lights up.
I also haven’t been able to shake this funk for the past several weeks, since losing my job and having the eye infection. After applying for several positions and taking a test for a job, all of my worries and insecurities caught up to me in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep and sunk into despair about my ability to land a new job, my hair loss and, yes, my glasses.
Not working out on a regular basis because of everything that’s been going on is also catching up to me. I feel bad when I’m a little winded after reaching the top of a long flight of subway stairs.
I feel squishier than I used to. I’ve had to wear my glasses. My hair’s thinner. I feel diminished. Whether it’s at a job interview or walking down the street, sometimes I want to put up a sign that says, “Please Excuse Our Appearance While We’re Under Construction.” Or reconstruction, I suppose.
I realize that I’m very lucky as far as cancer patients go. And lately, I’ve realized that the thing that’s making me unhappy isn’t even the cancer so much—it’s my insecurities. I’ve spent the past few weeks obsessing about how I look or grappling with self-doubt about my career.
I’ve had these insecurities a lot longer than this cancer, and they’ve probably affected my life much more negatively over the years than this disease, a relative newcomer. They’re so ingrained, they may even be harder to find and treat. But now that I’ve diagnosed some of these nagging self-doubts and insecurities, I can hopefully shed those along with the cancerous cells.