I wake up already feeling sicker than usual, and this is disappointing. I frown into my pillow. Why is this? My injection symptoms have more or less faded, the back pain hadn’t been so achy the last few days. And then I remember, and I sigh.
That’s right folx, I’m talking about menstruating today. Buckle in.
Eh, I’m kidding. I mean, yes, that’s what is going on this morning, but that’s not what I’m writing about at large. Let me clarify a bit more.
The odds are never in my favor. I am not saying this to complain, although let me be the first to admit I do complain, often and loudly. But it’s just, true.
May I present to you, the maths:
The odds are not great on any given day of any given month. And it’s just, this, forever. Every four, six, weeks, for eternity, until the flesh heap fails.
I fumble to call my husband midway through typing the above.
It’s the fourth or fifth time this morning, just a couple hours long so far, that I’ve had a wave of hunger grip tightly at my stomach, immediately overpowered by another, larger wave—a more physical wave that sits me bolt-upright and has me gasping little breaths. My mouth becomes hot and fills with saliva that I know if I swallow will produce vomiting. Do not, I instruct myself firmly. You will not vomit today.
I don’t often get hunger-pain messages; usually by the time I do I’m already shaking and well aware I need to eat because it’s been 18 hours since my last nutrition. They are often accompanied with nausea, though not normally as extreme as today.
The second day of your cycle is always the worst, my brain informs me.
How do I know that? I ask back. It feels familiar; maybe just something I’ve noticed over time? My brain doesn’t bother shedding any other insight.
I stare at my phone. I dont know what shop he’s in right now, and his cell doesn’t have enough service. I call the quarterdeck, and whoever answers kindly asks me to repeat what I’ve said. I take another sip of air, as deep as my shallow rib cage will let me--why doesn’t it expand?—and repeat. I am transferred; whether to the wrong shop or he’s just not there, but the next person asks if they should take a message or go get him, he’s in another shop nearby. I ask for him. A couple minutes. Gage picks up, unaware of who it is, which then catches me off guard, I’m not sure why.
“Hi, hi it’s me, I’m here.” Stumbling. Words are stupid.
“Ah—what?” I hear the recognition in his voice, he just hasn’t caught my babble.
“Hi hey babe it’s me and I’m here!” I pant in a short staccato. “Hey um how is work, like is work good, is work busy? … Yeah can I like get food delivered or do you think you can bring some home, can you leave?” It’s panicky, apologetic and rushed. I’m so sorry to inconvenience you with my inability to feed myself but everything I have looked at in the house is repulsive and punches me in the gag reflex, I would like to order an overpriced soup to be delivered to our door or if you could casually leave your career at ten thirty am that would be really cool hey thanks!
He doesn’t see it that way, I know this, but I do.
We talk about his work day and what option is fastest; I’ll order food for the both of us and he’ll come home after he finishes up some stuff so he can catch Cake off the bus.
I tell him thanks babe, love you, see you eventually, but somewhere in there I whisper too, “I’m sorry.” And then I am suddenly crying, shrieking how yesterday I did SUCH a good job eating, yesterday I made breakfast AND lunch and they were really really good but I wanted rice with my eggs so last night I set aside a breakfast portion of rice, just for this morning! And I cry, and scream about eggs and rice, and he is silent, listening. Present, but what can he do but encourage me to order the one thing my body has decided it will allow?
“I’m sorry, babe,” he says softly.
“Thanks, I know. I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you, I’m just… mad.”
I’m just, mad. That’s one of my common phrases, too.
The order arrives as I am still working, and while it was the soup I craved, I’ve become fixated on my half-sandwich in the time it took for it to arrive, and I am taking out huge chunks ravenously, immediately. I get about three bites in before realizing my mistake; take a fourth for good measure, and pack it up just as quickly, right back into it’s wrapper. Snug, so I cannot smell it, and push it far away, out of sight. Open the straw wrapper (shame), say a prayer for a the turtles, and sip the coffee to get the reminder of sandwich far away from me. You will not vomit today, I remind myself.
I head outside, smoke the remainder of my medicine from an earlier bowl. In short minutes, there is the ebb of relief, the sense of the nausea wave settling down and flowing back out calmly to sea. I am pleased, because I will not vomit today, not this round. And my face involuntarily scrunches up at the frustration I feel every time I acknowledge how well cannabis works and how much of a struggle it is for medical patients to get accurate, appropriate care, information, treatment … but ah Erin, another tale of a writing for another time.
I come in, calmly and easily sip up half of my soup, and feel full. Content even, I’ve eaten a good amount of food for a meal. Hell, I’ve now eaten a good amount of food for the day, by some of my standards.
…. It is half of a you-pick-two.
And it is monumental.
And stupid, and frustrating.
A fellow cancer patient said to me, “I don’t want to be strong, I want my body to work like it’s supposed to.”
And for sure, I’m writing about the worst things right now. There are the good days, okay days, the holy-freaking-fuck I did it! fantastic days, and the ones where you feel the best you think you’ve ever felt before, at least in this version of your life!
They exist. But the odds? The odds are never in our fucking favor.