So I was sick. When I texted Monique she let me out of our phone call that day. It was too much to take all at once. After I left the doctor’s I bought myself a burger, fries, and a coke. I deserved it, dang it.
That was a Thursday. That weekend I went with Monique to the Festival of Trees, something that I wasn’t feeling too emotionally up to it. The evening went well enough. Monique was sweet to me. And we had a fun time.
I remember that weekend I stayed at my parent’s place. I went to church with them on Sunday, and the few people that knew I was sick came and gave me hugs. Despite their concern, I felt like I still had to be the strong one. Everyone around me was trying to be sensitive, and that just made me feel like I had to bottle everything up. I didn’t need people to be sensitive. I needed them to be real. And to let me be real. And let me sob if I needed to. Or let me laugh if I needed to.
Really, that’s what I’ve needed in regards to my sexuality. Don’t tip toe around me. And don’t treat me like an angry and vicious apostate. Just be real, and let me be real.
I remember sitting in church that weekend. In gospel doctrine class a sister was giving a lesson on the armor of God. As a visual aid she had made cardboard armor and she wanted a volunteer to act as a mannequin for the armor. Gaga only knows why she thought this was a good idea for an adult class.
But because I was the visiting youth who everyone had taught in my teenage years she recruited me. I remember standing there, absolutely humiliated, wondering why I had to be part of that poor excuse for a doctrinal lesson, especially when inside I was completely devastated. I loathed Mormon culture in that moment.
If I were to relive that, I would refuse to go up. And when they pressed me, I would say, “I was diagnosed with cancer this week, and the last thing I want to do is be humiliated by taking part in a childish and demeaning object lesson for all of you.” If only I had the composition to demand my own needs back then.
Monday night my parents and younger brother drove down to Provo. My parents slept in a hotel and my brother slept in the empty bed in my room. Tuesday morning we went into the hospital and I got prepped for surgery.
Once I was ready to go I parted from my family and went with the nurses. I was lying in the bed when the surgeon came in. He gave me a brief summary of how the surgery would be. I asked him about the tumor and about the cancer in general. He said that he believed it was just the one tumor. But he wouldn’t know until after the surgery. I hadn’t considered the idea that this might not be the end of my cancer. I didn’t have much time to dwell on that, because before I knew it I was in the operating room and being hooked up to an iv. And then I was out.
I remember regaining consciousness gradually. Things were foggy, and I gained my thought before I gained my motor functions in full. As I waited for myself to wake up, the last words of the surgeon came to me. And there, with my eyes still closed in the recovery room, I wept. The walls came down, and I was allowed to be weak. I sobbed softly, letting some of the pain of my whole life out. I was aching. Not just as a cancer patient, but as a person. My life felt like it was crumbling around me. And there was no one to listen. No one to care.
I spent all that day in the hospital. The plan was for me to go home that afternoon, but the Percocet they gave me made me absolutely sick. I couldn’t even sit up without the world whirling around me and my stomach preparing to eject its contents. And my blood pressure was extremely low.
One dose of Percocet, which was only supposed to last four hours, lasted eight with me. I never take medication, and so a small dose has a strong effect on me. By early afternoon the nurse told me I needed to stay the night, just until my blood pressure went up.
My brother drove my car to my parent’s place and my folks stayed another night in the hotel. I spent the night on my own in the hospital, using morphine instead of Percocet. I can’t say that I get why people love morphine. I remember feeling pleasant on it, but it never killed the pain in my incision. It only made the ache tolerable.
I don’t know that I slept too much. I chatted with one or two of the gay people I’d met online. I chatted with one of my old mission companions who was a native of Europe. He was pretty supportive, and in a few hours he had spread the news of my surgery to the rest of my fellow missionaries. While my immediate reaction was that he was putting his nose where he had no business, later I realized that I did actually want my fellow missionaries to know. But I didn’t feel I had permission to announce something like that. So this good friend of mine did what I couldn’t. I was grateful for that.
I went home the next day. I spent the week watching movies. Monique came over and made a gingerbread house with me while we watched a bootlegged copy of “2012.”
I chatted a lot online that week. I didn’t have much to do. I found a gay dating site, Connexion, and created a profile. Through this I was able to chat with people in my own area. I actually had a couple invitations to go to parties or out to coffee that week. Of course I turned them down. I was bedridden. But at the same time there was an element of distrust in my interactions with other gay people. I just wasn’t ready to meet them.
Thursday night, a week after my diagnosis, I was online randomly chatting. A guy I’d seen several times popped up. We’d sent messages back and forth, but had never caught each other online. Finally we could talk.
We chatted for a while, and I found that I really got along with this guy. He was funny, but not crude. There was more of a personality to him. As we got to know one another better we gained some mutual trust and he told me his real name. He’d used a pseudonym online. With my expert stalking skills I found him on Facebook. He was pretty freaked out when I knew his last name. “Alex,” I told him, “I’m very good at finding out what I want to know.”
As the rest of the week went on we texted and chatted most of the day. I slowly began to like Alex. He didn’t seem as obsessed with sex as the others I had talked to. And he didn’t seem as cynical either.
As the week drew to a close we agreed to meet when I got back to Provo. Sunday night I packed up, and although I was still a bit sore, I drove down to take my finals, and to meet this new boy.