Hearing hoofbeats

It starts one bright winter morning. You wake up bleeding. Except you shouldn’t be – it’s not that time, as your mother would say cannily. But as with so many other things, your mind agrees to spin a reassuring story about the blood for you – something comforting if slightly abstract, but nevertheless something that absolves you from having to actually do anything about it. You shrug it off as best you can, and boy howdy you can shrug things off with the best of them. Days pass. The blood is light, spotting. It waxes and wanes. You write to friends, needily, “is this something I should be worried about?” Doubt begins, slowly, to seep in.

You find yourself crying at stupid youtube videos and having dark fantasies about the grim phone call you’ll get from the doctor, that inevitable worst case scenario we all hope to stave off until our most geriatric of years. On the fourth day you feel shaky and light-headed and the blood is heavier, an ominous bright crimson. And when he looks at you – into you, as he does – you feel your face begin to slowly melt into a gigantic puddle. The jig is, as they say, up. “Something is wrong… something isn’t right,” is about all the admission you can manage. But finally saying the words, and hearing the undeniable lilt of pure terror in your own voice, makes your whole body sob.

In his office, the doctor lays out the possible scenarios for you, marking up a piece of paper with diagrams of internal organs on it, circling things and drawing arrows. You’re sitting down, but feel that in reality you’re floating in the air just above his desk, the detached observer of a terrible moment that, thankfully, does not belong to you. At some point you notice the woman’s hands – your hands – shaking, and he does, too. “When you hear the beating of hoofs on the street outside your door, you think horses, not zebras,” he says in a preschool teacher calm sort of way. “Cancer is the zebra.” You find this analogy reassuring, and immediately begin thinking of your lady parts as an aging thoroughbred, standing on a hill at sunset, serenely eating grass.

The exam itself isn’t terrible, at least not until he does that thing where he pushes upward and down on your belly simultaneously. Then you literally bolt up on the table screaming, all sense of decorum gone. Out on the imagined sunlit hillside, the horse whinnies and bucks, nostrils flaring in sympathy.

The doctor peels his gloves off finger by finger, smiling, and hands you all the paperwork. Forms and tests – weeks of them. You don’t know if something has just ended or begun, and you honestly aren’t sure you want to know.


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26 Responses to Hearing hoofbeats

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mate. MATE.

    I just want you to know that I read your words and felt your fear and my heart is with you. A lot. The human body does some crazy fucked up shit .. but it always tries to work for us, not against us.



  2. Brian says:

    This shit sucks, regardless of what time of day it is. I’m reading, and here for you …

  3. mochamomma says:

    Hey, sister. There really isn’t a great comment here, I’m hoping that just a “hey, sister” will be enough for you to know that I love you and will meditate on this and pray for healing.

    So, hey, sister.


  4. Jen O. says:

    I am so sorry you’re scared. If I could, I’d squeeze your hand, pass you a drink and hug your head. But you’d get annoyed because I just handed you a drink. But that’s what I’d do.

    I have no doubt you’ll be alright. The body is such a mystery sometimes. I’m just sorry you’re afraid.

  5. christine stephens says:

    I’m also reading and here for you. Honey, it’s so stressful to fear for your health. Deep breaths–it’s best to really believe deep down in your heart that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. Love you, -c

  6. Laura Healy says:

    I am sending you light and good healing thoughts…

    (and damn, didn’t you just nail that terrified in the dr.’s office feeling!)

  7. Crap. Sending positive thoughts. Everything is and will be fine.

  8. ouch. OUCH. the push up and down, but moreso the fear. you have nailed the terribleness of liminal time, here, the waiting to KNOW. am sorry you are in this space right now.

    sending you and your lady parts buckets and buckets of horses. plain old regular horses. and love.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sending warm, positive, cinnamon-scented thoughts your way.

    Horses and hugs,


  10. MFA Mama says:

    Oh, lady. I’ve been there. And in my case, despite my huge trophycase of zebras at home, it wasn’t cancer. You’ll be fine. This is probably a stupid cyst or something on a stupid ovary. You’ll probably need surgery, but even that’s not so bad (I’d put “hysterectomy and removal of one ovary and fallopian tube along with associated large mass” somewhere BELOW “cholecystectomy” on the list of Things That Suck…above wisdom teeth but honestly not as awful as People Say). We’re all here, reading along and hoping for the best for you. You’ll be okay.

  11. Dawn B says:

    Sending you love and all the good health vibes I’ve got! Here’s to finally getting a pony for Christmas.

  12. Michon Michon says:

    Thinking of you…

  13. awestintx says:

    Sending thoughts and prayers your way…glad you have someone like “him” to hold your hand.

  14. Abbie Zwicke says:

    That’s scary shit. Thinking positive thoughts.

  15. This fear is so horrible, worse (almost) than news. I’m thinking very positive thoughts and holding you tight in my heart. xo

  16. Amy Mingo says:

    Oh the fear. Sending you peace, calm,, and hope. My zebra isn’t cancer but a brain artery malformation that has been in my head my whole life and I didn’t know it until this fall when I had a seizure. And then I had another one on December 4th. Now it’s like waiting for a bomb to go off. My own tests start up again in January. Yep, know the fear.

  17. Here’s to horses. Or ponies. I’m sending pony vibes your way.

  18. Oh, Tracey! My stomach clenched up for you–your fear came through so, so clearly.

    I’m hoping for horses. Horses, horses, horses.

  19. Damn. I’m saying some prayers, lighting some candles, wishing on stars, and all the other things I can think of to make this who scenario end up to be a big nothing burger. No matter what, you know that we’ll all be here for you, come what may.

    And may it please be nothing.

  20. Kirsten says:

    Ponies. Great Danes. Not even horses. I’m here if you want/need. Thoughts. Love. Everything coming your way.

  21. maggie wilkin says:

    Sending you positive vibes and really hoping for horses.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Fuck Google for even putting the C word in your brain. Hugging you fiercely. It’s going to be okay.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Horses. So many horses. Or better yet, those darling little small horses with the long hair. Those are lovely.

    Thoughts and prayers and whatever else you need.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Everyone who cares for you is holding you in their hearts right now. I know that you can feel it. you’re a good person, a strong person, and you have a bucketload of people who love and care for you who will share as much or as little of this experience as you need.

    My thoughts are with you.

  25. beezus74 says:

    It’s most likely horses. I’ve been exactly where you are. I even had a 8cm cyst that after an ultrasound, I was told may, or may not
    be cancer. I had to wait a week after an MRI to find out- worst week of my life. It was a cyst, and yours, as I’m sure you were
    told, could be wonky hormones, a cyst, a big ole fibroid, etc. I have this quote recently I hang onto, ‘ If you obsess on the worst
    case scenario and then it happens, you’ve lived through it twice. ‘ It really helps me. I hope it helps you.

  26. Enna says:

    Oh my goodness, prayers are coming your way.

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