Scenes From Week One
digesting the news of my husband’s colon cancer (see what I did there?)
Hi, it’s me. Surprise! I’m in your inbox on Saturday! Thanks for your prayers, well-wishes, and good vibes regarding Bryan’s cancer diagnosis. In case you missed it, on Monday, February 13th, Bryan got a colon cancer diagnosis after a biopsy following a routine colonoscopy. You can read the story from Wednesday HERE.
Writing helps me make sense of the absurd + I need a central location to update family and friends. To that end, I may post here more frequently than usual with health updates. I created a new section called Shrödinger’s Polyp so all the updates are in one place.
If you want to receive these updates, you don’t need to do anything — they’re already set up to come to your inbox.
If you’d rather keep to my weekly Wednesday posts only, you can opt out of Shrödinger’s Polyp updates via your Substack manage subscription settings (I’ll still link to any health updates in my Wednesday News + Notes section) — just toggle a section on or off:
CT Scan Results Look Very Promising
Before I get into the emotional roller coaster of our first week in Cancerland, I wanted to share this cute photo of us – Bryan is drinking a magic elixir prior to getting a CT scan on Thursday, February 24th. That scan shows no signs of the cancer spreading to anywhere else in his body. This is great news!
And now, on to scenes from our first week in Cancerland:
The Day Before
On Sunday night Bryan finally finishes setting up his studio after a year-long project of cleaning out the back of our detached garage and remodeling it. This is where the magic happens for his new project, Reality Ain’t:
The urgency to finally finish this setup was fueled by the excruciating silence while waiting for his initial test results.
The Day of Diagnosis
It’s Monday, and I’m standing in the kitchen making dinner after my long commute down the hallway from the back of the house. Bryan comes inside from his office out back, and he’s crying. It’s bad news. He heard from the doctor.
I turn off the stove and we immediately call a family meeting. The kids are almost 20 and almost 18 — old enough to know what we know and participate in making decisions. Besides, they’d been asking daily if we’d heard anything yet.
The Day After
Bryan is reading Bono’s new memoir, Surrender – 40 Songs, One Story. On Tuesday he reads this passage and posts it to Instagram. I’m sure nobody thinks anything of it — he posts quotes all the time, and at this point, only me and the kids and two other people knew.
Two Days After
I get a standard message from my health provider that I’m due for a routine “colon cancer screening.” This is how it was worded. Not “routine colonoscopy,” but “cancer screening.”
Did I make an appointment? Of course not. If I’m going to also have colon cancer, I'd rather get Bryan's out of the way first. This is how my brain works. I prefer my crises to come consecutively rather than concurrent, that way I can just settle in to the anxiety like a favorite pair of worn jeans.
Three Days After
In our relationship, Bryan is the official Acquirer of Tickets for all concerts and Broadway shows. Three weeks B.C. (Before Colonoscopy) he skillfully acquired early bird tickets to Timber! Music Festival (which sold out in 30 minutes, by the way), and on this day, three days A.D. (After Diagnosis) he snags a prime camping spot the moment reservations open up.
Quietly, as my planning-for-the-worst-case-scenario brain considers all possible paths cancer treatment will take us down over the next six months, I wonder if we’ll still be able to go. We have tickets to a Broadway show in March, a concert in May, and now a music festival in July – I’m now measuring time by how far out we dare to make plans.
Four Days After
We’re getting into bed and Bryan says, “What are we going to do if this is really bad cancer? We have things to do!”
The words are apprehensive, but his tone is feisty. I match him with banter, saying, “If you die, I’ll write a book about it and be famous like Nora McInerny!”
“You’re going to monetize my colon?” he says incredulously, then, “Hey, that should be your first chapter: How I monetized Bryan’s colon.”
*checks map* Yup, we’re still in the Dark Humor Phase of Acceptance.
Five Days After
We’ve been notifying friends and family, which in turn prompts the telling of many cancer success stories – uncles/friends/sisters-in-law who had colon cancer and are now cancer free. We’re aware of the success rate of colon cancer when detected and treated early. Yay positive vibes!
Then on the way home from dinner at a friend’s house, we’re listening to a story on the radio about how the latest Wakanda movie opened with the funeral of T’Challa because the actor, Chadwick Boseman, had died in real life.
Of colon cancer.
I had not known or remembered that this was the flavor of cancer that killed our beloved Wakandan King, and to this point I had not allowed myself to consider the non-cheerful outcomes that were possible.
But now the realization is hanging in air between us. Our silent conversation is a call and response of “Oh shit,” and “What now?” and “Daaaaaaaaaamn IT.” We’re not saying actual words, but the telepathy we share inside 22 years of marriage is real.
Six Days After
It’s stand-up-and-greet-your-neighbor time at church, which I don’t love anyway, and the guy behind me asks, “How was your week?”
It was such a specific question. Not the usual how are you, or what’s your name, or how long have you been attending — How was your week?
I choked. Literally stammered. I know this man, and I know he genuinely wants to hear how my week was. This is not a community of How Are You? Fine. people.
But I’m a weird, introverted writer and would rather announce to 164 Substack subscribers about Shrödinger’s Polyp than have a 1:1 conversation while the kids are being dismissed to children’s church.
I deflect and ask about his week. He works in senior health care and it’s been a rough few years. As we talk, I mentally note that he was real with me, and I hope to be more brave next time.
The Following Week
This video randomly makes its way into my Instagram algorithm and I can’t stop laughing. Pleeeeease click through and listen to this man dramatically reading tweets about colon/cologne. The Algorithm of the Universe found me and delivered a belly-laugh worthy specimen of humor for this Dark Humor Phase of Acceptance.
I pieced this diary together from the daily notes I’ve been making. Not full journal entries or essay drafts, but quick words to remind me of what I’m feeling and thinking. It’s how I stay present in my body when my mind wants to wander ahead to worse case scenarios.
Thank you for reading. Your presence also keeps me present.
Until next time,
Okay FINE. I’ll get a colonoscopy.
“But I’m a weird, introverted writer and would rather announce to 164 Substack subscribers about Shrödinger’s Polyp than have a 1:1 conversation while the kids are being dismissed to children’s church.” Yup. Know how you feel entirely. Keep writing. I’m listening.
I'm very sorry to hear this. Definitely will be sending good thoughts your way.