I hear her speaking to me, a voice that’s melodious and soothing, if only because I’ve listened to her since the day I was born; technically she’s my left hemisphere, my logic. She politely lays out my daily tasks, patiently handles my time, she tells me that happiness is directly correlated to my life’s circumstances and that my past teaches my future, she speaks endlessly; the audio track of my life. Most days I barely notice her incessant chatter, other days her voice penetrates and pierces my placid surface and it’s all I can do not to shout at her to shut up, be quiet, fall silent at least for a moment or two.
She’s the inner critic, my common sense; she’s the voice that insists I never be complacent in life. She recognizes the importance of knowledge and many a night she has kept me up thinking about all sorts of questions she has yet to gain the answer to. I read an endless amount of books; browse Google as though it were the Holy Grail. I watch documentaries and read wide variety of blogs – she insists that perspective and experience means everything. All of it fascinates me. But sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes her voice, her demands, harms my fragile right hemisphere. The pictures she paints isn’t always rosy, sometimes the rushed and fevered colors are too stark and depressing, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes and I am left wondering why…just why.
She has haunted me these past few months. Put me on a mission, urged me to seek knowledge about the possibility of cancer. Through my studying I have learned the terminology, grasped the medical jargon, and understood the treatments. I deny my knowledge to doctors and radiologists, my surgeon and technologists – they like it better this way. Too much knowledge from their patients is often seen as confrontational and irritating. So I pretend not to know what to expect, not to understand their medical rhetoric. I feign ignorance so as not to put others on edge. That’s not to say I’m afraid to speak out. I’m not. I will advocate for myself when I feel that their actions are wrong, until that point I will remain hidden beneath my fake and shaky smile, far more informed than they could ever imagine.
But sometimes that information weighs heavily upon my shoulders. Possibility and probability sound - to the untrained ear - to be the same thing but they are not. My left brain speaks in probabilities, and understands that the likelihood of cancer at my age (nearly 30!) is almost non-existent; small, miniscule, and highly unlikely. But the right hemisphere, the creature that speaks only in pictures, that understands emotions and spirit, the esoteric soul that sees nothing but possibility and understands the world on a very instinctual level – well she is afraid of some of the things the most logical part of me knows. She’s afraid of the numbers muttered to me by my radiologist, mentioned in passing to put me at ease, designed specifically to relax me before my breast biopsy. The left hemisphere nods at the doctors, understands all that is meant by that small, tiny, miniscule number, while the right side recoils, twisting violently against a possibility that no one sees… I’ve been a witness to small numbers before in reference to my son. He was born with a congenital heart defect, born to beat the odds – or perhaps to be beaten by them; probabilities that were so small, tiny, and miniscule to seem entirely improbable – and yet were so very possible.
And what would that mean I often wonder. If the number means nothing, if probability is only a vaporous cloud used to create efficient and reliable self-delusion. It would mean that cancer can be real for me; cancer could be lurking within a breast that nourished three children, within a body that refuses, even now, to accept the possibility of illness. I’m still young enough to feel ageless – I should still believe I’m immortal, but my past teaches my future – and like a monk within a quiet reflective monastery – that past insists life cannot be lived without suffering. We cannot walk a path clear and unaffected by the possibilities in life – by the probability that within a lifetime tragedy will touch us as surely as happiness will. Life is a gift but its lessons are rarely free. And so my left hemisphere, my logic, still chatters away about all the probabilities in life while my right hemisphere (my emotions) retreats from all those possibilities – an endless and violent cycle. But today both sides were silenced as I received biopsy results upon my left breast (my right breast still cloaked in mystery); and I feel my life once more within my control which of course is illusory and entirely false but comforting all the same...