What would it mean to be done?

We don’t know if the chemotherapy worked. We’ll know if I don’t get cancer again.

We don’t know if the radiation worked. We’ll know if I don’t get cancer again.

We don’t know if the hormone suppression is working. We’ll know if I don’t get cancer again.

It has been twelve days and I have had four blood draws, two intramuscular shots in the butt and the gut, a surgical consult, two new drugs, dosage changes on two other drugs, a consent for a clinical trial. I have scheduled one surgery, one baseline bone density scan, a consult with a gastroenterologist. The skin on my chest and under my arms is brown and peeling, the outlines of the radiation field clear. It was, after all, a rectangle. The blisters are gone. I can open a window but closing it is harder. We use different muscles for each, I guess.

Oscar practices his trombone in the rolling desk chair we got him from Ikea. He holds this instrument in his hands, blows as hard as he can. There’s so much to it, mouth position and slide position, how he breathes and still makes music I’ll never understand. My anxiety roils and then settles on that rolling desk chair, the way he slides to the right, to the left, the trombone listing side to side, playing Auld Lang Syne or Scarborough Fair. The heart of the thing is the sound. I tell myself this and yet the listing, the swiveling, it crowds everything out. I desperately miss the point.

A friend of my dad’s sent me a memoir about a dad dying when he did, I remember a canoe on the cover. It sat next to my bed for months. If I opened it, it might impart some meaning, help me wrap my head around what happened, incorporate it and move on. I didn’t want that. I don’t want that. Leaving it flickering at the edges, just off to the side, the pain like a tether.

But time passes and will pass, it’s like it happened to someone else, people say. Over here, it’s still like it happened to me.

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