Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Secret

I had a biopsy on Nov. 17. The weird thing about going to the Cleveland Clinic, where I had been the day before, as well as Wednesday and Thursday of previous week, is that when I was there I was not carrying around this secret. 'What's up?' everyone asks. 'How are you?' I'm great. In fact, it turns out, I'm very healthy except for one thing, this lymphoma thing.

On that Sunday I took a bottle of wine to my writer's group. I had things to celebrate, the short story collection coming out in June, and the completion of the Ilovebees project. (Check out and if you are genuinly interested in Alternate Reality Games, get thee to the ARGN Network.) Much to genuinely celebrate, but weird, considering. Everyone chatters about their news--Steve Hayward about his book, and all of us about the things we have coming up. I don't want to tell people, certainly not before the biopsy is final, and yet, I don't doubt for an instant that I have it. I know everyone will change when I do.

It's a little like coming out, I guess. People will have to readjust their ideas of me. I will change irrevocably in their eyes the moment I announce it, and although I may certainly survive, I will become, for some time, a walking momento mori. And people will calculate what to say, what to ask. And it will happen again and again. So how do I tell people--send out an email? Like people send out change of email address emails? Isn't that crass. Do I have to tell each person in person? The phone calls, to my sister, to friends. I hate to do it to them.

It is a little like coming out, without the threat of someone disowning me. Just the opposite of that, in fact. There was a time, not so long ago where when someone had cancer, people avoided them. But the people I tell keep saying, if I need anything, give them a call. Instant sympathy. For something that hasn't even really affected me yet. Someone once asked Chip Delaney how old he was when he came out. He said, you never stop coming out. You are always meeting people and having to 'come out'. All these people I know, who do I tell? Do I tell my family? Of course. My friends? Of course. My students? I've decided not to.

But for everyone else, there's this blog. I asked Chip about the autobiographical writing he did, and he indicated he did it to protect himself. I didn't understand then, but I do now.

And the biopsy itself? The biopsy--it's a damned good thing I did shave my legs, it was a full procedure with hospital gown, anesthesiologist, operating room, iv, hairnet and little socks with non-skid soles. On the other hand, the anesthesia, which was a twilight sleep/amnesia kind of thing, wore off in less than five minutes once they removed the iv and then I made Bob take me to lunch. (They tell me that when I woke up--apparently I slept through most of the procedure which is their intent, I said, 'I'd forgotten where I was!' and the surgeon said, 'You're in the Caribbean!')


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