In March, when I first had stomach pains, I called my friend Dr. L, who said, "It's not like you have cancer, ok?"
My cousin's wife accompanied me and my mother to my MRI, and said to my mother, by way of reassurance, "The worst thing it could be is cancer, and he doesn't have cancer."
We all do that, mistaking luck for protection, or thinking that the most awful thing won't happen, precisely because it's so awful. It's as if we believe in justice, and believe that it sees things by our lights. When I tried to pray, one thought that tripped me up was "What if I do deserve this? What if I deserve it and don't even know it?" But I had to leave that behind, too. Like the man in the movie says, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
Today, three months after surgery, and after all those tests, I, more than most, would qualify for a USDA Tested & Approved, 100% Cancer-Free stamp. That's a good thought, but what I feel is that the happy bubble of protection has popped. I don't think anyone will say to me again, "I'm sure it's nothing."
This isn't a very heavy burden, and I can't complain, since I've learned something. Namely, that no matter how much you think you've thought through your mortality, there's no way to pre-imagine the terror of its specificity.