Dreaming of Cancer

The woman asked if I dreamed about cancer. She does. She is four years younger than I am, was diagnosed with the same stage (2A--the A makes it seem so tender, like the AA in one's first bra size) about a year behind me. She had chemo only four times instead of eight, and she had reconstructive surgery that started when the mastectomy was done. She had short curly hair and said she had terrible night sweats. And she dreamt a lot about cancer.

I never have. I have recurring dreams about failing to reach someone on a telephone. There are troubles with the buttons, I can never get the right numbers punched in. I have dreamed for years about having to put something large and opaque on my eye--like a leaf or a rock. I think this comes from my unconscious being freaked out by the thought of putting contacts on my eyeballs lo these many years. I dream about France and Houston and Eastern Europe. But I never dream about cancer.

Whenever someone says they've dreamed about me, I always ask: What was I wearing? In John Sayles' movie Passion Fish, the main character, who is paraplegic after an accident, dreams of being able to use her legs. I've never asked B, who has MS, if he dreams of walking and running. He probably does. There's an anecdote in Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning. He tells of being in Auschwitz and hearing another prisoner cry out in his sleep. He wonders which would be more painful: to let the man continue his nightmare, or to wake the man up so that he could return to reality, in an extermination camp.

I wrote down my dreams for decades. When I was packing up this summer before moving, I threw files of them away. They were boring. I didn't want to re-read them. I didn't want to re-create those images in my head, those pieces of not-reality that would crowd out memories of things I really experienced. I know that Freud called dreams the royal road to the unconscious. I know that I threw out a written record of my unconscious. But I'm tired of analyzing. I've analyzed myself to the tune of $40 and $50 and $80 an hour while sitting on couch after couch with boxes of Kleenex close at hand. Once I even got health insurance to reimburse me for an hour of re-birthing. I have many faults and most of them are the same ones I've always had. I'm lazy and undisciplined and insecure and defensive and self-conscious. Prozac and its brethren got rid of the persistent lump in my throat. And for that I am grateful. Those pills have have also scraped away at my memory and my word-retrieval functions, but that is another story.