A month ago, I went to my first ever male gynecologist for my annual ladyparts check-up. He was bald and non-threatening, and wore loose-fitting corduroy pants. He also told me that I have a lump in my right breast that could be cancerous.
He told me that I needed to schedule a sonogram. I, being of the theatre, assumed that a sonogram was some kind of somber singing candygram dressed as the Grim Reaper, and that he would appear at my doorstep and chant, “I hope your tit is cancer-free, so that we all can shout ‘yippeeeee!'” and then he would slaughter a pig. Apparently a sonogram is an x-ray — an x-ray that is so popular, you have to wait two weeks to get it done.
I had two weeks to try to not think about cancer. I told Ultraman that it wasn’t a big deal, and that really, it was ok, because I hear that chemo makes you really skinny. He slapped me on the shoulder and made me a vegetable omelet. Seemingly nothing will deter him from trying to grow a garden in my small intestine.
Three donuts after the veggie omelet, I was in a dark place. I started thinking about the futility of life, and the process of natural selection. Was I being selected by Nature to die because I am a hypochondriac? I had never actually had Scarlet Fever like Beth/Claire Danes in Little Women. I had never actually contracted TB from wearing a damp hoodie all day like Satine/Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.
Despite a lifetime of self-diagnosed life-threatening diseases, I had never actually caught one. I have the thick hair of a horse’s tail, hips that are woefully perfect for childbearing, and thighs that could choke a small-necked man. Cancer attacks small-boned prostitutes on crime dramas and old men who smoke in their offices. I am neither small-boned nor in the possession of an office.
And then it just hit me, mid-bite of the third donut: I absolutely have cancer. Because cancer attacks anyone. My therapist, a perfect goddess with an asymmetrical haircut — seriously, who can pull that off? — almost lost her life to cancer. A beloved family friend, a beautiful radio show host in my hometown, a friend’s seemingly healthy mother was gone within three months because of cancer.
I decided that I had mere months to live, and in those months, I was going to write a book:
It would be a much more clever title if I owned more skinny jeans, or lived in Brooklyn, or had cancer of the hip. Regardless, the book would touch on the irony of being sentenced to death so young — is that what “irony” means? meh — and begin with a list of cancer pros and cancer cons:
THE PROS OF CANCER
- Chemo will definitely take off extra pounds.
- Hair loss can open up a world usually only open to drag queens: wigs.
- If I’m not into wigs, wearing a bandana on my head will make people think I’m a pirate, and then I’ll be less likely to get mugged.
- My friends will not flake on plans because they’ll be afraid I’ll die pissed at them.
- I will get so many free drinks.
- All of my ex-boyfriends will have to forgive me for all the horrible things I did to them.
- I will be able to wear pajamas all day, every day.
- I will not be judged for napping.
THE CONS OF CANCER
- Chemo might make me skinny, but I’ll be too weak to go out to any bars to flaunt the skinniness.
- An IV is an inconvenient accessory.
- For Halloween, I will only have two costume options: Jean Luc Picard, or Vin Diesel.
- Muffincat will sense my weakening health and probably try to kill me.
- My best friend will shave her head out of solidarity with me, and end up looking really hot. People will see her and say, “Wow, you look like Natalie Portman!” And then they will look at me and say, “Wow, you must have cancer.”
- I will never know if I could have successfully followed a diet for more than three weeks.
- I will miss the musical adaptation of Mean Girls.
- I’ll never see all those postmortem Facebook notifications.
The book will then continue with how I deal with treatment, the many ways Muffincat tries to murder me, and most importantly, directions for my funeral. I have had my funeral planned for a very long time — Y2K wasn’t a joke, people — and it will be carried out exactly as I have outlined.
- The ceremony will be held at a roller disco. (I have never been to one myself, but I imagine they’re a great time, and very colorful.)
- My coffin will be placed at the center of the skating rink, and every person is required to jump over it during some point in the evening — even if you’re really afraid of “hurting yourself,” come on. It’s my funeral.
- No one is allowed to sing.
- No one is allowed to play an instrument.
- No one is allowed to think the words “Time of Your Life.”
- The only song that will be played, throughout the entire evening is a slightly altered version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It is called “Don’t Stop Bereavin’,” and I will have the CD burned and ready to play on loop
- Alcoholic cotton candy will be made available.
- Muffincat will be strapped into a backpack that Ultraman will be wearing the entire evening. Any final words you’d like to say to me, you can say to her. She’ll see that I get the message.
- My best friend has been given the farewell speech I wrote. She will read it out loud. It will elude to a great lost love, that I am a better writer than Shakespeare, and that I have perhaps faked my death.
- Everyone will receive a gift bag which will include a burned CD of “Don’t Stop Bereavin’,” and some firecrackers.
The funeral — and book — will end with a poem read by my best friend’s fish, Spaceship.
One week ago, I had the sonogram done. I had to wait for over two hours and watch Planet of the Apes twice while I fidgeted in the waiting room, but I finally got the exam. I found out that I don’t have cancer. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t make a joke about it or try to brush it off with humor. I was just grateful. I was so grateful to the technician who told me I was going to be ok, and to Ultraman for his disgusting omelet, and to Muffincat for shelving her murder plot, and for every single person who would have showed up to my roller disco funeral. I am so grateful for you.