This has to be one of the worst noises known to man. Taking second place only to sharp nails dragging across a chalkboard, the shrieking sound of my alarm clock will never fail to make me flinch as I recall all my past encounters with it. Through my peaceful slumbers and unimaginably deep sleeps, this ridiculously annoying sound will surely make me groan as I jump up to fumble with the small buttons on the device, pressing anything to make its piercing blares stop.
I then slump to the bathroom, peering in the mirror to see the scowling face of a tired and irritated creature, leaning up against my counter. When I finally come to the realization that this creature in the mirror is me, I panic. I snap my neck to look at the clock and wonder how in the world I could possibly fix myself in time to depart to work. My shaky hands begin to attempt some kind of transformation, but a small voice inside my head cries that I’m a hopeless cause and it urges me to crawl back into my warm bed. I somehow manage to fight this voice as I trudge through my morning routine, finally arriving at my usual ending point known as “good enough”.
Now, I know this sounds crazy, but I swear my coffee pot is out to get me. How else can you explain the reason that it works perfectly fine on weekends, but when the work week rolls around it’s a completely different story. Not only does the filtered coffee leak out as slowly as possible, but it screeches and steams to present me with a terrible racket and a mess to start the day. However, about five paper towels, a mop, and some earplugs have seemed to do the trick to quickly clean and erase the damages that this evil machine continually creates.
My car, as rickety and battered as it may appear, drives fine for me, but starting it can be nearly impossible. The motion is somewhere between a shake, a jiggle, and a thrust. However, it is only when a seamless blend of these actions has been applied that causes the rattling sounds of the engine to burst out into a triumphant roar. After ten minutes of hard effort I finally start the car, driving a couple of yards before I cringe at the sight of automobiles lined up and down the road, stuck in bumper to bumper in traffic. Honks, wails and shouts of anger echo throughout the street, me being responsible for all three. Now I know that I can get out of hand sometimes, but being stuck in morning traffic almost every day for the past year has made blowing off steam at this time a simple and daily ritual. I mean, what’s so bad about expressing yourself once in a while? If this truly is a free country, what should I have to hide?
Smile, just smile: this is what I must constantly tell myself as I make my way into work. I just put on a wide toothed grin and prepare myself for the painful moments yet to come. The moments where I happily say good morning to all my fellow co-workers, acting like we’re a bunch of old friends while we compete to steal each other’s jobs. That’s the thing about my company. Although our image tries to reflect teamwork or togetherness, the only important system you have to recognize as an employee is the food chain. Especially now, at the peak of our business, it is every man for himself as the survival of the fittest continues. This is the reason why I feel disappointed as I walk up to my receptionist’s desk and inform her I will be absent for this afternoon’s meeting. This action is practically like surrendering in the midst of a deadly war, and I can just picture myself in the middle of a battlefield waving a tiny white flag above my head. All my hard work has been defeated by one simple trip to the doctors.
I was proud when I strolled into doctor’s office five minutes early, and I was more than ready to get this unwanted check-up over with. I signed in to verify my appointment and took a seat in one of the waiting room chairs, opening up one of the typical magazines placed into these rooms by corporations which are packed with advertisements to buy this product or invest in this business. As I sat there, more patients check in, and soon the whole room is crowded with people who are just as anxious as me to get in and out of this place. I impatiently watch as dozens of men and women who have come in long after me are called in to the doctor’s office before me. When it’s about a half an hour since I arrived, they call my name.
They lead me back just as they have done since I was a child, getting my height and weight before dropping me off in a designated room where I am to wait for my doctor to come and attend to me. When the doctor opens the door he beams down on me as if he were looking forward to seeing me all day. The room feels freezing to me and the feeling of the stethoscope against my back runs a chill up and down my spine while I take deep breaths, just as instructed. The doctor writes down various notes onto a clipboard then goes to feel my neck, inspecting the ridges on either side of my throat until I feel a shooting pain in one specific area. The doctor’s eyes widen as he comes back to that spot, running his finger over a tiny bump on the left side of my neck. I could not fully grasp what was happening at the time, but I took note of how pale and serious the doctor’s face got as he quickly excused himself from the room, saying that he would return shortly. I was unprepared for this kind of reaction and was extremely confused on what exactly was going on, but, in that instant, I felt my hands slide up to feel the rise on my neck and I winced as I put pressure down on its surface. It was unlike any kind of pain I have ever experienced, and that’s what scared me the most.
The doctor returned, and although his clipboard was firmly clutched in his hands, he looked as timid as ever. There was a distinct nervousness in his voice as he spoke these single words, “I believe you may have cancer.”
4 WEEKS LATER:
Ah, that noise again. Oddly enough, I almost feel as if I could burst out laughing when I’m jolted awake every morning by my clocks constant shrieks. It’s become the noise that tells me I’m still alive and that I should get up and ready to make the most of what might be my last.
One of the most difficult parts of my day is getting ready in the morning because it involves looking into the mirror. Ever since my diagnosis I try to ignore any reflection of myself because all I see is something sick, and weak, but I don’t want to be those things. I see Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and every aspect about it. I see what it’s done to me, and what it plans to do, and these are factors that I cannot control. To groom myself in the morning has become a joke as my hair falls out in patches and my skin, so dry and rough, blotches in areas to resemble a serious case of sunburn. Though, for every physical trait that remains brittle and frail, my emotions build up to become strong and mighty, like a fortress that won’t be broken.
My coffee pot, still malfunctioning as always, doesn’t matter as much anymore. On the small occasion when I do have the appetite or craving for caffeine, I relax while I watch the coffee slowly drip down into the pot. However, on other days, I sit outside upon my porch and think. I never actually know what I think about, and I don’t plan to meditate on any particular subject, but somehow I can just get lost, dazed, and flooded with the absolute silence of my mind. There are many things that I’m instructed to think about, like future treatments or upcoming counseling sessions, but I can’t help to disregard those notions and to dive into a more blissful and simple world of nothingness.
I still dislike morning traffic all the same, but I try to stay as patient as a person possibly can when there are rows of cars in front of you. Although even though I haven’t exactly been approved to do this by my doctor, I prefer to walk as long as the weather is clear because a cool breeze rustling through my hair makes me feel like I could just float away.
When I mosey into work I don’t make my usual effort to smile, but I act natural by not plastering a fake emotion onto my face to deceive the people I come face to face with every day. Instead, I keep a straight face as I mingle with those who come up to me to offer a dose of sincere sympathy. Although their sympathetic gestures may make me feel more sad and empty inside, I know they only mean to reach out to me in a time of need. I begin to see my stupidity for previously having to feel the need for a false attitude around my peers, when they would’ve opened up to me, sharing the laughs and sorrows that we have developed now.
I feel increasingly more nauseous as the day carries on, and my stomach only drops further as I stumble into the hospital for my next treatment. I meet my oncologist in the building, talking quietly until I am handed over to a nurse to be prepared for my procedure. She gives me a hospital gown to put on and leaves the room to let me mentally and physically ready myself for what is about to come. As I struggle to simply dress myself without being consumed by an agonizing sensation, impulsive tears stream down my face. Once dressed, I sit in a side table chair stroking the lump on the left side of my neck, and thinking back, only four weeks ago, to what changed my world forever. I call my loved ones an inform them of the process I am to go through, attempting to assure them that I feel fine and that all will be okay. Though, I know the truth. I’ve seen this illness devour me over the course of the past few weeks, and I understand just how dangerous it is. It’s changed me and physically altered me as if I was a decaying body, like I am dead to the world already and it is only a matter of time before my heart pumps one last beat. I don’t have to be a doctor to know that I am only getting progressively worse; all I have to be is me.
As the nurse returns and walks me to my final destination, she holds my hands as if to wish me good luck. I want to just stand there, grasping her warm, soft hands and dreaming of the days when I felt this warmth, too. I say farewell and softly chuckle when I say I’ll see her soon. When I get into the operation room I am told to lie down on the operating table and relax, so I try and do as they say. I lie on my back, and tilt my head back. When I close my eyes, I hear the sound of a pounding alarm clock, echoing the call of survival. I imagine a noisy coffee pot slowly dripping its contents into a shallow pool while it squeezes out each single drop, not ending until every bit has been distributed. I see cars lined up in long rows, creating a never-ending chain that stretches to every length possible. I watch shadows that form faces of the people who I have loved, and people who I have constantly misunderstood. As I watch the memories go by, I realize it’s the simple times that I can cherish the most. I remember the times which were so plain and modest that they created a time for me to sink into the deeper parts of life, making it feel like a world stuck in time. Though, no matter how much it disgusts me, or how much of an atrocity I know it is, cancer has been a major part in changing my life. Through my ailment I’ve been through a route in my life that I never knew was there for me, and it has surprised me, and upset me into a time where I begin to rework the facets of my life to align with what is best for me in the end. In many ways, I owe my life to cancer.
- Title: A Monster I May Owe
- Artist: CLOSEDACCOUNT_GHOST
- Description: Attempting to write a condensed version of this story inside this little description box is impractical. So, let this story speak for itself.
- Date: 01/26/2013
- Tags: monster