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March 18, 2014

On Omens and the Dangers of Reading Too Much

IMG_0516One of the most wonderful things I’ve read lately is “Odds and Omens: Superstition and IVF” by Terri Vlassopoulos, not least of all because it is an M Word kind of story,  the kind of tale that gets told and makes so many women feel less alone. And even those of us who’ve not struggled with fertility can identify with what she’s writing about, because anybody who’s ever tried to get pregnant knows what tricks mind and body can play on one another during the two weeks or so before a pregnancy can be detected. I wonder sometimes if it’s a problem particular to those us who read too much, who imagine the world can be interpreted through signs and symbols just like a book.

Terri’s essay also meant something to me, as I’ve been waiting for test results on my thyroid lump for the past two weeks. The good news, we learned this morning, is that the lump is still benign, which always comes as a relief. This is my third round of this, and I am definitely getting used to it. I didn’t really go insane with anxiety  (though I am also not pregnant this time, and can drink!), and all the sleep I lost last night (which was plenty) is on account of my evil children. When I did it last August, I didn’t do too badly either, though the night before my results was this extraordinary evening so golden that I was quite sure I’d receive a fatal diagnosis in the morn, just for the sake of juxtaposition.

The morning of my biopsy appointment two weeks ago, in which I learned that my lump is ever-changing, I’d happened upon three accounts of women with terminal cancer diagnoses. That evening, with my biopsy much on my mind, I checked Facebook to inquire after an old friend of mine who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for the past three years, and discovered that she’d died the day before. Which was perspective, of course, a sign for me to suck it up because I’ve got it lucky in oh so many ways, but also pretty devastating and incredibly sad. Odds and omens indeed.

In some ways, I’m learning how to live with uncertainty. I no longer imagine “biopsy” to be a synonym for “death sentence”. I’ve had so many, and I just call them “tests” now. I have much cause to be optimistic that everything will be fine, and I very nearly am, and then. “What if it’s a trick? What if the universe is screwing with me, getting me all complacent so that when the bad news finally comes, I am so far from ready?” (Though who is ever ready? Sometimes I imagine that worrying is preparation of a kind, though I think I’m fooling myself.)

This is the point at which my husband reminds me that I am not the centre of the universe, that the world has not specifically arranged itself with my interests in mind. That if I’m in fact a character in a book, as I seem to think I am, it’s a book I haven’t finished reading yet, and that there’s no way really to ever know what comes next except to turn the page and see what happens.

3 thoughts on “On Omens and the Dangers of Reading Too Much”

  1. JC Sutcliffe says:

    Glad to hear it’s fine. And great post!

  2. Lindsay says:

    I’m pregnant with my 3rd and have thyroid “nodules” that are growing and I have a biopsy coming in June (how not to go crazy before then?!?!?). Any advice you give is much appreciated so thanks for writing. I’ve been reading for quite a while but had forgotten about your thyroid lumps! Glad to hear they are still behaving!

  3. alexis says:

    You are such a good writer, Kerry.

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