This was first published in an essay collection, also called The Fictional Mother, which I released as a bonus reward for my patrons in May 2017. You can access this collection and a whole bundle of other e-books, along with other rewards, by pledging $1 or more to my Patreon every month.
Spoilers for Season 5 of Buffy, Seasons 3 & 4 of Once Upon a Time.
Potentially triggering discussion of cancer diagnosis & treatment as well as maternal deaths in fiction & real life. Take care of yourselves.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with a low-grade skin lymphoma, after a biopsy on my forehead. It was surgically removed.
(Seriously, don’t panic)
One year and a second positive biopsy later, my cancer was officially graded as ‘recurring’ though this was also matched with more comforting words such as ‘indolent.’ After a second round of invasive tests and scans during which I learned that my body finds contrast dye physically repellent (literally) I am now facing down a month of radiotherapy. This, I have been assured, is very boring and has a high success rate for curing specific cancers. Over the last year, I have lurched between times of extreme anxiety about my health and my future, moments of cautious relief, and even twinges of guilt that this is such a small health crisis compared to those of others.
(Everything’s gonna be OK)
Yep, I actually feel guilty that my cancer is so discrete and treatable. How’s that for imposter syndrome? This time around, though, it feels a lot more real than it did last year. And every time I explain to people how extremely small and treatable and really no big deal my cancer is, it feels like I am thumbing my nose at fate. So. There are a lot of feelings.
(On a related note, hey, if you have the chance to get regular check ups at your local skin clinic, why not go do that? Tell your friends!)
Back when we were waiting for the original diagnosis, I thought a lot about my daughters, and my mind kept being drawn to Disney movies. The possibility of dying (it’s horribly easy to leap from ‘cancer’ to ‘dying’ in a single panicked second, especially if you’ve been Googling all the words your doctor uses without context) becomes a whole different kind of scary when you are a parent.
(Spoiler: I’m not currently dying except in the sense that I am, apparently, mortal.)