When I have sensations or ideas pop into my head that are a little or a lot uncomfortable, I find it cathartic to write about it; exaggerate them and put them onto fictional characters. I had some mild medical anxiety a few months back. Coupled with stress at work and some interpersonal relationship issues, it was a lot at once and I found myself unmotivated and irritable.
I’ve been toying with the idea of posting flash fiction, which is defined as fiction that is under 1,000 words, though I have seen other sources list it as <1,500 words. I personally feel 1,000 is a good cutoff, so that’s the threshold I’m using here.
My own anxiety over my health wasn’t this dire, nor centered around any growths. Still, I felt infinitely better “putting it on paper”.
I hope the unnamed woman finds some peace.
The days waiting for the test results to come back were hell. When she’d found that unusual growth on her skin.
She had lived those few days in a self-imposed limbo. Coffee on her porch became a grim, fierce ritual she had to carry out in case her morning caffeine fixes were numbered. Children were to be envied. They were so young and healthy. They didn’t know how good they had it. Was her husband ready to live without her? How would her body react to chemotherapy? Would her friends miss her? Would they say nice things about her at the funeral? Had she actually done anything worthwhile with her life?
And then, after hours of what-ifs and Googling symptoms and survival rates and support groups….the call from the doctor’s office. Not cancerous. Just a nuisance.
The nuisance was removed. She should have forgotten about it after.
She couldn’t. She had started to see death everywhere.
She found herself watching people at all times. In the grocery store, the park, at the movies. Wondered how each of them would die. Would they get to reach old age? Would she? Without her input, her brain superimposed grisly images over her daily life. She saw the man who delivered their groceries wither away, shrink into a grinning skeleton as he handed her the bags. There was a lump of something decaying, caught with the leaves in the sewer grate down the road from her office. She imagined flecks of blood spraying from her husband’s mouth any time his allergies caused him to cough.
She checked out medical books from the library. Looked at lurid images of disease, of death and mutilation.
Her husband was worried. “Babe, you’re young and healthy.” He was right. It didn’t matter.
She scheduled more visits with her provider. “I’ve been feeling tired. Do you think it’s my heart?”
“I have a pain, just here. Do you think it’s my bones?”
“Yes, headaches too. A tumor?”
Her doctor indulged her, to a point, then gently chided her. The tests he did agree to all came back normal. It didn’t matter.
She told herself she was done looking things up. She wouldn’t imagine terrible scenarios anymore.
Her fingers reached for her phone out of habit. They felt almost itchy (nerve damage?) as she picked it up. Just one more time, she told herself.
But it was never just one more time.
She lay awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking of all the ways her body could fail.
– Sara Myriad