First Comes Love, Then Comes Chemo

Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

Love-illustration-0213I am exiting the subway at Carroll Street on my way home from work when I run into my college boyfriend, G, who lives in California and, as far as I know, has no business appearing like a ghost on my commute.

“Hooli!” He exclaims, grinning, invoking a defunct nickname. He pulls me in for a hug, tells me he’s just passing through town, asks me how I’m doing.

Something lodged in my thorax breaks free, a release valve to the deep well of tears I draw from lately.

I am not doing well. A month earlier, at after-work drinks with friends, I touch my neck and discover, out of nowhere, a lump so comically large that it calls to mind the eggs that rise on the noggins of cartoon characters when they’ve been whomped with frying pans or bludgeoned by falling boulders. But there is no swinging wall of cast iron, no ill-balanced rock to blame, and morning after morning this lump does not subside. I am told by the specialists who palpitate, scan, needle, and cut, that I face a far more slippery enemy: my own blood, my lymph nodes, which are riddled with secret tumors. Lymph nodes? I think blankly, as I am reassured that this is the best possible horrible thing that could happen to a piece of anatomy I barely knew existed. Official diagnosis: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Official remedy: surgery to biopsy the largest tumor, followed by three to six months of chemotherapy.

More here.