If Death Breaks the Glass

Louisa Leontiades Illness, Vile Depths

Life has an order that we rarely see and almost never accept. We call it chaos and fight it with rules and restrictions; systems and management. But like water, life will find a way through our man-made blocks, whether it takes hours or centuries. If our systems are in opposition to life, they will cause pain and suffering. Until our systems crumble.

Life finds a way to live… even if it’s not through you. And if you don’t allow it to pass through you unhindered, if you don’t trust it to flow and celebrate its natural passage, if you stand in its way, it will destroy you… one way or another. You must trust. Because that’s the only thing that stops you from being knocked over by life.

“I hesitate from calling it a tumour.”  Said the doctor. “Because people hear tumour, they think cancer. It’s a follicular neoplasm.”

“So if it’s not tumour what is it?” I said laughing… because I already knew the answer. Does he not think I read the internet? It’s all I’ve been doing for the past 2 weeks.

“Well okay, it’s a tumour. But there’s no way of telling whether it’s benign or malign without operating.”

I looked at him with a smile and said “So it might be cancer. Don’t lie to me. You know I’m going to look on Google.”

“I’m not lying. But if you look on google you will find a thing called anaplastic cancer. That’s bad. It’s not that. We know it’s not that. 9 out of 10 times a follicular neoplasm is not cancer. But if it is cancer, it’s another type which is better. It’s almost always curable.”

I trust him, but only because Wikipedia already told me that the range of probability is 5-30%. He’s being optimistic with 10%, but he’s not lying. He’s also missed out the metastasizing possibility. Did we catch it early enough?

I said “So why not take the whole thing out if you have to take some out. You know,  just in case.”

“It’s not like we want you to live without a thyroid. If its benign we’ll leave half of it in. Of course, your metabolism will be adversely affected in all cases.”

“But what’s really important Doc…” I said feigning seriousness as he leant forward in sympathy “is whether you’ll give me weight loss pills.”

“Do you always use humour as a defence mechanism?” he said.

“Would you prefer that I cry?”

People, even doctors apparently, need certain reactions. If I am too joyful, they either think I am in denial or they think I don’t trust them enough to share my grief with them. They’re right. But I don’t want to hurt them by protecting myself. So I’ve decided to give them a moment of grief, a poignant phrase just to let them know I understand the uncertainty of the gristle life has currently given me to chew on. Not enough to let the fear drown me, because right now my life is only uncertain. Just in a different way than it was yesterday.

I know that it’s my coping mechanism of course; humour is a mature one according to psychology journals.  But it’s more than that. Because really, it’s none of their fucking business. My grief and anger are precious. They are mine. Whilst they run through my body, they are mine. I’ll channel them how I choose and show them when I choose. They are mine.

 So I say to them. “Yes. It’s not great. But it’s mostly about the children you know.”

It’s the truth. At this they follow my gaze to my curly haired daughter and my dimpled son. Oblivious. Then I turn away. I can’t look too long with those thoughts in my head and neither can they. Then I lighten the tension with a joke.

“Besides, I was running out of things to talk about in my blog.”

I am forced into feigning normality because of the mask I have to wear as a parent. To be honest it helps. I cook. I chat. I laugh. I hug my children. And when I hug them I think abnormal thoughts.

“You’re 2 and 4. If I died now, you probably wouldn’t even remember me.”

And whilst I think that, I savour every damn moment of their snotty noses, their dirty fingernails and incessant whining. I find it utterly beautiful. I feel deep joy in being a parent. So much so, that I almost start crying. Obviously, that’s far from normal (as any parent can testify).

I am a scared person. But it doesn’t define me. Because I am also a trustful person. A loving person. With a new capacity to enjoy wiping bottoms and screaming tantrums. Because when you think the glass might break… you are thirsty, so terribly thirsty to savour every last drop.

It’s spring today in my world. The sky is velvety blue. The sea is a mirror sheen and the trees are electric neon green. And life literally crackles with death. Trees are strangled by vines. Old reeds are usurped by new. The corpses of flies litter spider webs on the eaves of our house.

Death is everywhere. It’s shameless, vibrant and bold. It’s laughing at me and I laugh back. I’m still alive but I know, that life only exists so magnificently and so joyfully because it’s so close to death.