Don’t know how long we were like that. Wrapped around each other.
Eventually, I guess we realized we were in a doctor’s office and she was reading us, what felt like, our final rights, and I think she had more to say. We turned to look at her. I pulled my chair in closer to Cliff’s. I couldn’t let go of him.
She kept talking about stuff. Cliff kept asking questions like, ‘Couldn’t you have got this wrong?’ And she said she didn’t think so. The pathology was clear. The doctor who analysed his biopsy was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt. He showed it to others and she was sending it off for an official second opinion as well (which came back today with the same diagnosis.).
I was going to vomit. I had to go to the bathroom. I was incredibly and suddenly physically sick. I couldn’t breathe properly. I couldn’t slow my breathing down. I was breathing fast, shallow, sharp, useless air. My hands and feet got all hot, tingly and twitchy and my torso was numb.
I learned this is a physical shock response left over from mankind’s days on the savannah. When we receive a terrible shock, like coming around the corner face-to-face with a lion, we empty our stomach, so we are lighter to flee, and we get energy in our hands and feet to fight or run.
I felt like I’d been turned inside out. All my nice, strong, protective outside bits were now squished and small and being entirely ineffective inside of me, and all my soft, sensitive, raw bits that need protecting were now all over the outside getting sat on and stepped on and touched. Everything just hurt!
I whispered, ‘Excuse me.’ I didn’t think I could hold it in any more. I had to go be sick. It would be awkward cleaning up vomit off her floor. But I couldn’t leave. I had to hold it together. I needed to be here for this. I held my stomach and dropped my head between my knees. Tears streamed steadily and silently up my forehead, dripping into my hair and on to the floor. This can’t be happening, my body is screaming in pain, but I am silent. I didn’t make a noise. I wasn’t loud or dramatic — I just felt sick. Incredibly, incredibly sick. And incredibly upset — way, way out there beyond what can be described as upset. And Frightened. But somehow the word ‘frightened’ seems so inadequate. It doesn’t even begin to describe how scared I was.
Cliff drove us home. He was calm. Calm enough to get us home.
I don’t understand how he can be so calm. But soon I realize it’s a gift in a box with a bow on it that is given to you along with bad news and it’s called Denial. Bless every ounce of it.