Why I Hate Elizabeth Edwards

Because she might die.
Because she didn't find her lump in 2004 until it was the size of a half dollar.
Was it the size of a half dollar spinning? Because cancer is in the shape of a stone or rock, it is not flat like a coin. It is not even a perfect sphere like a spinning fifty-cent piece. That shape is saved for the benign cysts. They appear as black smooth spheres in the ultrasound. I saw that. The radiologists will not tell you anything outright, but they will point out what is typically benign.
The cancer mass (larger than one centimeter) or node (smaller than one centimeter) looks jagged, it has crab-leg-like protusions, for which it earned its name. In the sky, you can see Cancer the Crab, a constellation, put up there by Hydra because the crab helped in her struggle to crush Heracles. The hero smashed the crab with his foot. In the afterlife, the crab was rewarded. But because the crab wasn't successful, its constellation isn't the brightest.
I hate Elizabeth Edwards because she smiles. She smiles and she is dying, the cancer is in her bones, it is eating in her bones, and though there are drugs that may stop it, that might stop it, the drugs might not work. I hate Elizabeth Edwards because her husband is not quitting to take care of her, she doesn't want him to quit, she is in the race for him, for both of them. The presidency is a mom-and-pop affair, according to her. She is not working as a lawyer. She wants to work to help her husband get into the presidency. She wanted many things. She wanted children in her 50s and got them. She got a husband who became a senator. Did she want that? I don't know.
She can have quality of life. People use this term and it makes no sense. There is a good quality of life and a bad quality of life, not just a quality. She can have a good life, she can take a pill, and another pill, and a treatment, and she could be in the five percent. Or ten percent. She could live more than ten years. She wants a legacy of helping her husband into the White House, not of keeping him from it.
I do not like her husband. I heard him speak the first time he ran and he was vague and said he understood the poor and the workers because his parents had been poor and workers. He wanted us to vote for him because of that. Because of who he had been. Of what he had been born with. Nothing. Now everyone says he is seasoned, he knows he was wrong about the war. He is for universal health care. See, his wife is so sick and he wants everyone to have the health care she can have. This is his bully pulpit. When I heard the candidates speak last time around the ones who made the most sense, who spoke most of equality were the ones least likely to succeed: Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton. They have gone away. They are not serious candidates this time around.
I hate Elizabeth Edwards because she does not have a life of her own. She has her husband's campaign as her life. Because she believes in him. Because she wants to live for his win. Because, she says, he says, they want service. He wants to serve his country. He is not blindly ambitious, he wants to help, and he can help the best by becoming the most powerful person in the world. On earth.
I hate her because she does not talk, he does not talk, about pollution. About the possible causes of breast cancer. About pesticides and pollution and the company that created tamoxifen being the one that makes pesticides that might be connected to cancer. The name is AstraZeneca and it was part of Imperial Chemical, which produces carcinogens that have been linked to cancer. And because AstroZeneca founded Breast Cancer Awareness Month and supervises and must approve all its brochures and pr because who knows what might come out otherwise. Words like that of Rachel Carson might, for example. Who warned us in the 1960s about the environment failing us and moreover us failing the environment, and she was scorned and is now a secular saint.
I do not dislike John Edwards. I don't trust him. IHe wants to be president, and who wouldn't?
You can't be president and speak the truth and I wonder if you can run for president and speak the truth.
I hate his wife because she's going along with the everyday, or at least she wants to and can't she see it's going to kill her, this cancer?
But maybe it won't kill her soon. Maybe she'll be part of the lucky, maybe she'll live a long time with treatment, maybe there will be a cure. Let's race for the cure. Not the cause, but the test that catches it and the cure.
I hate her because she didn't get a mammogram for the four years before she felt the lump.
Because I didn't feel my lump. It was there but I didn't feel it because my breasts confuse me. Rather, past tense, my breasts were confusing. Now I have one. It confuses me too, with its lumps and bumps and dense vagueness. I cannot map it from month to month, I cannot remember which lumps used to be there or there, which are scars and which are old, which are new. I should draw a picture of what I feel, that's what I should do. I will do it now.
There are two holes in my right breast from a biopsy, and there are wrinkles in the place that used to be my left breast. There's some roundness around the perimeter and some stitches inside, like the grin of a toothless old man. Then there are steri-strips still covering it. I do exercises with my left arm so it won't develop lymphedoma, so it will regain its range of motion. So it will be normal. So I will be normal.
I hate her because hers came back after chemo and radiation, and I start chemo tomorrow and it's not supposed to come back. It's supposed to keep from coming back. The odds are good.
Because she doesn't rage. Because she is smiling, and she is hoping for the best. She is brave in the face of possible death, she says, we are all going to die, I just know what it is that will kill me. Thought of course there is that proverbial bus. The one we always talk about: You could walk down the street and get killed by a bus. It does happen. The other day, in fact, a firefighter was killed by a bus smashing into his firetruck.
Because we don't know anything. We know that Elizabeth Edwards had stage 3 cancer, a lump and malignant lymph nodes. My nodes are clear. I am a better person than she is because I have clean lymph nodes. They are shiny and perfect, doing their job, lymphing and sieving. They are like blood but without color, they are clear and not red. They are virginal cells, cleaning and clearing, coming to the fore when there is a bacteria or virus. Mine work. I am proud of my lymph nodes. Which by chance, are not cancerous.
I am a better person because I am only stage 2a, because mine was caught earlier. I am on track. I am prompt. Though she found hers on her own, and I found mine through a mammogram. We should have joined forces; I would have urged her to get annual mammograms and she would have pursuaded me to do a breast self exam each month. We could have been bosom buddies. Bosom pals.
Better in this case meaning less mortal. Less close to death.
She is going to die and she is not raging. I am not raging. Because my cancer hasn't come back. Because it hasn't had time to come back. It was just removed a few weeks ago. I am not raging, people notice that. I am not angry. I feel I deserve this. Because? Because I am fundamentally flawed. Because I have not lived a perfect life, a clean life. The breast cancer attached its crabby legs around me, it caught me living an imperfect life. It caught me drinking milk with bovine growth hormones. It caught me eating cheese. It caught me drinking public water in the farm belt. It caught me getting chest x-rays and dental x-rays, and oh honey these rays are nothing nothing, don't worry about them. Just the same thing you would get from a day at the beach. It caught me because it catches one out of every seven or eight of us, women. Because that is the luck of the draw. Because that is the price we pay for modernity. For post-modernity. For the mosquito fogging trucks. Fogging, that was the term. For not being the perfect athlete, the perfect vegan, the perfect organic-eater. For not being even a good athlete or good exerciser or proper vegan.
I hate Elizabeth Edwards because I hate this cancer, this strange overgrowth inside me that is against my own interests. Because the cancer is in her rib and her hip, breast cancer has migrated there. Because you can't hate cancer, it's just cells that took the wrong message, answered the wrong phone, opened the wrong letter. Cells that did not know you could return to sender. Because I have to hate something out there. Because she is not screaming, screaming: This is unfair. I didn't want this. I don't deserve this.
Because I know hate is fear.
Because hers came back.
Because it could come back.
It might come back.
Any time.

24 comments:

BC said...

My bride (partially fogged in by the Darvocet cloud) asked me Why does S hate EE? I said her reasons are good. They are pure. They are true. They are Hers. We are with you today.

Return to Sender. This is good. As are you ... not perfect you say? To us you are indeed perfect. You are You. We are better for it ... and thinking about YOU today. Tomorrow we'll go back to thinking about us. bc

Anonymous said...

Sandi. This is so strong. I saw that interview last night and it troubled me, too. Thanks for writing this. If today is the day (I think it is), I hope your treatment went well and that you are feeling decent tonight. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to support you through your "chemo months."

Tsivia

Anonymous said...

finally, rage

Grace Talusan said...

Thanks for writing this. I was with my sister (who just finished treatment in February) when the news came on about this. We talk about my sister being cancer-free, but it made me realize that that can be a temporary state.

I like your blog! Nice to meet you!

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