No Way Out But Through


It is widely claimed that in 1899, the head of the US Patent Office urged President McKinley to shut down their operation because, “everything that could be invented has been invented.”

Sounds ridiculous, right? I thought so too, so I looked it up. The only evidence of this statement appears in a humor magazine from that time. Somehow it became attributed to the patent guy.*

Obviously there will always be new discoveries in every area of life. But when it comes to our own health, we’d like to know everything up front, thank you very much.

After reading about my health mystery these last weeks, some of you shared your of own close calls. The vivid details suggest those memories remain fresh. I do hope that the one lasting fact from my four biopsies, three mammograms, two MRI’s, and the month in limbo, will be that it added up to zero cancer.


Despite a second benign pathology report, we are still in the diagnostic phase, according to my oncologist. How can this be? Some masses are more benign than others, apparently. Mine are considered “radial scars.” I had never heard of such a thing, but evidently twenty percent of this type of mass contains an underlying malignancy. Unless you examine the whole thing, the possibility remains. So, the seemingly conclusive results I’d gotten excited about guarantee nothing. Surgical removal and a full biopsy is next. I’m experiencing mild shock as I really believed I was done. I even drank three margaritas.

So what could I possibly learn in month two of Who Has Cancer Bingo? Remains to be seen but for starters, trust and vulnerability are taking center stage. I am no fan of either.

That may sound crazy since I clearly have no problem disclosing all the personal details in this very forum. It may look like vulnerability. Take it from me, it is far easier to duck behind a keyboard than to talk to anyone face to face. I am terrified of people saying anything that will scare me or cast my situation in a negative light.

I illustrate my point with the example of the person closest to me, my dear husband. When this all began a month ago, he tested positive for Covid. The vulnerability phobic in me was relieved he couldn’t talk to me or touch me. All alone in quarantine during my scariest moments with extra responsibilities and no support? That tracked. Your people will only let you down and leave you when you need them the most. Welcome to my comfort zone.

When my doctor called, the trust phobic in me considered rejecting her advice out of hand. I feel perfectly healthy. I am not a statistic. It’s organic, non-toxic central over here. Doesn’t she know I meditate?!

“What if I don’t do it?” I asked.

“That would not be my recommendation,” she said, refusing to spin any nightmare scenarios with me. Okay, she is pretty great.

not her but you get it

When we first met, I talked a big game about trust. Now that we are at the cutting stage of our relationship, I am side eyeing the whole arrangement. Allowing anyone, no matter how highly trained, to wield a sharp instrument over my most tender bits is a level of faith that strikes me as entirely unreasonable. I have a few weeks to learn how to do that.

So here we are. With trust and vulnerability to guide the path forward. There is no way out but through.



WRITING PROMPT: What is your comfort with vulnerability? How about trust? 

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*An 1899 edition of Punch Magazine offered commentary entitled “The Coming Century” wherein a “genius” enters a patent office and asks, “isn’t there a clerk who can examine patents?” A boy replied, “Quite unnecessary, Sir. Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Somehow this statement was attributed to Charles Duell, head of the patent office at the time. But also, how is that funny.