Ignorance is bliss?

Yesterday, the doctor examined my son’s leg. There is a hard lump on his right calf that shouldn’t be there.

“The radiologist will be able to tell from the x-ray whether or not this is benign,” he stated.

In hindsight, I realize that at those words, my brain numbed itself.

“I hadn’t considered that possibility,” I finally stated.

Turning toward me slowly, the doctor said, “You’re a trusting soul.”

The x-ray finally loaded up on his computer. It showed a bone growth that came off my son’s upper shin bone and hooked downward. Pondering it, he finally stated, “I’m 99% certain that this is benign.” He proceeded to point out features that informed his belief while also telling me what it could have looked like had it been cancerous.

Discussing whether or not it would need to be removed, we determined that it could likely wait until ski season ends—two months away. “That shouldn’t be a problem. The radiologist will take a look; I’m confident he’ll say it’s benign. If it wasn’t, you’d be driving to Boise [a 2 1/2 hours drive] tonight to have it treated.”

My brain, heart, and gut lurched.

“I never considered that we might have more than completing ski season to worry about,” I responded. “I guess ignorance really is bliss.”

As we proceeded to check out, the numbness which had enabled me to complete the appointment began to wear off. Some remained, which allowed me to drive to the middle school to pick up our daughter. While I walked into the school I called my husband. I need to talk about what I had learned. In spite of our conversation, I could feel that my emotional equilibrium was still off kilter.

After the kids and I arrived home, the emotional numbness was gone. Surprisingly, huge emotions didn’t surface. Instead a different kind of numbness engulfed me accompanied by nausea, all of which debilitated me. After two hours I was able to begin functioning again at reduced efficiency. And you must keep in mind that I would rarely call myself efficient.

But the bone growth on my son’s leg isn’t cancerous. This fact has been confirmed today by the radiologist. So, why the angst? Why two different types of numbness?—one which enabled me to continue on with vital tasks and one which debilitated me from accomplishing secondary ones.

Perhaps ignorance isn’t really bliss. Had I been concerned at the real possibility of cancer in my son’s leg, the news that it was benign would have been a relief. However, having never considered the possibility of a life threatening condition, the mention of cancer shocked my sensibilities.

We all know that each of us is mortal and that death will someday, somehow separate us—at least for a time. But to function day to day, we stuff this reality down into a small, dark corner in the far, nether reaches of our minds. Yesterday’s events abruptly ripped out that knowledge and fear from wherever I cram it. Having my son’s mortality yanked front and center into my consciousness shut me down.

I have emerged again from that place. Knowledge of our mortality is again thrust away from my emotions so that I am able once more to merely give it an academic nod of acknowledgment then carry on with my day. Someday, someday… I will again have to deal with the death of a loved one. Today is not yet that day.