Alive, and Adorable (photo credit: Holly Taft)

Schrödinger's Tumor

Submitted a month ago
Created by
Kerry Krieger Clifford

I can’t begin to describe the anxiety I felt last week leading up to my surgery. There was a tumor in a new place, not tucked neatly in my liver with the rest of them. It was just floating around in my pelvic area, somewhere between my ureter and an ovary. So along came Dr. Barth to work his Dr. Barth magic and get it out, but first we had to talk about it. He had to tell me all of the risks of surgery and have me sign the paper. I know most of the risks by now… infection, negative response to anesthesia, accidental nicking of intestines, etc. Serious, but unlikely stuff. Now that I’ve graduated from colonoscopies, I need a reason for a good bowel cleanse, right? 

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But then he talked about another thing that could happen. Something I hadn’t considered: he might open me up and find a bunch of other tumors that simply had not shown up on any of my scans. What?!? He said that if there were only a couple, he’d take them all out, but if there were a lot, he wouldn’t be able to get them all. We would have to go back to the drawing board and talk about radiation or more chemo. I also heard, but he did not say, we may just have to give up.

So there I was, walking around with this knowledge of options good, bad, and awful. Hoping so deeply for the good. Having panic attacks at the possibility of the awful.

It brings to mind Schrödinger’s classic thought experiment about the cat in the box. In the box with the cat is a device that may or may not activate, killing the cat. While we wait for the box to be opened, then, we must think about the cat as both alive and dead. I suppose the optimists among us would lean towards the alive and the pessimists would assume death. So what am I, and how am I looking at the rogue tumor as I wait to be opened up and learn the truth? I am both a woman with rampant cancer in her pelvic region and a woman with a lone, random tumor that will soon be gone and forgotten.

Our whole lives are Schrödinger’s cat. A big old life-box full of unknowns and diametrically opposite possibilities. My brain simply won’t allow the image of a dead cat, so for that week, I did my darndest to picture a living, adorable cat, with a bright future of cuddles and being waited on hand and foot by a doting cat mama. Knowing that if he falls asleep on my lap, I will forego my needed trip to the bathroom and getting a second cup of coffee because I don’t want to disturb the peace and sweetness that reigns over me in that moment. It saved me from several anxiety attacks, and, I think, made a few of the ones I did have a bit milder.

And for that, Mr. Schrödinger, I thank you.

P.S. For those of you waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the surgery, the cat is alive. It wasn’t an easy surgery, but he found just the one tumor, and seems to have gotten rid of every little bit of it.

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