Thursday, March 22, 2012

The picture of health

It's been weeks now but I'm still startled every time I open the college's web site and see my own face smiling back at me. Who is that woman and what is she grinning about? The photo is attached to a story about my recent teaching prize, but the photo was actually taken in spring of 2009 to illustrate a different story about cross-disciplinary learning. I generally dislike photos of myself but I like this one because it makes me look like I'm in on a very happy secret.

I did have a secret in spring of 2009--a secret so deep even I didn't know it. When this photo was taken, I was just weeks away from being diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer. I may look like the picture of health, but deep down inside I'm being eaten alive by a pestilent scourge of out-of-control cells. Chances are good that I was in pain when this photo was taken, but I had grown accustomed to dismissing my pain. "Just a natural part of the aging process," they told me. "At your age, you may as well tough it out until menopause."

I'm glad I finally found a doctor who would take my pain seriously and unearth that hidden secret, but I still wonder: how could I have looked so healthy when I was so very very sick? This is the face of cancer--I just didn't know it at the time. 

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