The guy on this program was talking about how present day kids don't know anything about quicksand and thus, have no fear of it. It has almost disappeared from the national consciousness. As a little girl I remember feeling vaguely bothered by that something in nature which could bury me slowly. However, the most terrifying combination of words for me was not then organic, but a thing crafted by humans. The iron lung.
Originally, I visualized an iron lung in a literal way in that I assumed doctors replaced the old organs in your chest with heavy metal ones. Like an internal iron maiden, minus the spikes. Imagine my learning that an iron lung wasn't something they put inside you, but a terrifying machine in which you were placed. This news was difficult for me--a dedicated claustrophobe--since I screamed every time my mother helped me pull a sweater up over my head in an attempt to remove it. Indeed, the idea of being trapped and sealed inside a metal box which purported to breath for you was--despite its helpful purpose--nightmarish to me. Photographs of smiling, disembodied heads on pillows did nothing to dispel my fear of being contained in such a way that I could not see my own hands and feet or in any way extricate myself from its strong metal confines. In short...a complete loss of control over my own life.
This past week my otherwise healthy 78-year old mother was diagnosed with cancer.
The woman who lived through the deaths of twin daughters before giving birth to three healthy ones and who remained strong throughout my own dad's recent health trauma is now the focus of our worst fears. The mom who read Uncle Wiggly to me, taught us to make bread by hand and value the feel of sleeping with a cool and crisply ironed pillow case beneath my head went to the doctor and came back holding the "C" report card that in no way guarantees a pass. In fact it frequently does not. And even though the word is ridiculously commonplace these days, the weight of its mantle is still mercilessly heavy.
The superstitious whisper it because of the fear it imparts. It is--like the fictional Voldemort--that thing which shall not be named. It is the sound of the other shoe dropping. The dark train pulling into the station with its accompanying ominous screech of oily brakes. It is--for me--the iron lung of all diagnoses. I am not ready.
I am so. Not. Ready.
I am so. Not. Ready.