From Couch Crashing to Cancer


I’m reflecting on the distant past — a time before my cancer diagnoses.

cartoon drawing of blogger and breast cancer survivor, Laura Yeager

Back in the 90s, before I had cancer and before I ever thought about having cancer, I taught writing to university students at local schools. I still teach writing to college students; it’s been a constant throughout my life, as I meandered through my youth, to the time of my mental breakdown, to my marriage and an adoption of a child, and finally to my cancer years and beyond.

I think the exact year was 1995. I was dating my husband-to-be and teaching at a Catholic college as an adjunct. The adjuncts didn’t get the “best schedules”; they got the courses that were leftover, the ones no one else wanted to teach. In short, I had a course early in the morning at 8:00 a.m. and another at 7:00 p.m., leaving me with a huge break between classes.

Since I lived 35 minutes from school, I didn’t want to drive home and back, so I looked for a friend’s couch where I could be the couch baroness. A couch baroness crashed for a few hours in the day at someone’s place, and then, they went on with their scheduled activities. For example, my first class was from 8:00 to 10:00, after which I held office hours until 12:00. Then, I went to a local restaurant and had a hamburger, French fries and a Diet Coke.

At 1:00, I’d arrive at my friend’s house and sleep until 4:00, making sure I was out by 5:00 when she and her husband returned. Then, it was a quick dinner, and finally, at 7:00, I’d teach my night class.

At this rate, I was able to survive that semester, thanks to a woman named Leslie, a fellow adjunct. She was kind enough to have a key made for me and to lend me her couch when times were a little tough.

Now, since 2011, times have been tougher in a different way because I’ve had to think about life and death survival since my first cancer and then my second in 2016. I’m having a routine scan in two days, and this is why I’m thinking about survival.

Also, I just saw Leslie on a video presentation she made from Denmark, where she moved with her husband and children. She spoke on being an expat writer, as a guest for the International Women’s Writing Guild, as part of their Women’s History Month programming. It was great viewing her — she was still the kind, generous Leslie, who didn’t mind if you invaded her space for a time.

At this point in my life, I would like to return the favor. But how?

I’d also like to make it through this cancer scan with flying colors.

The things we want pile up. We make lists of desires, work toward them, accomplish them, and in a way, that’s life.

I think I’ll take Leslie out to dinner the next time she’s in the States,if she’llgo. She’s super busy now and has a zillion friends, but no others, I believe, who slept on her couch in the 90s. Maybe she and her husband will accompany my husband and me for a bite.

This scan thing I have a little less control over.

A lot has happened since my last breast cancer scan. Two of my family members have received cancer diagnoses; they appear to be doing well, thank God. They’ve both undergone radiation treatment.

And my mother developed Parkinson’s disease. I’m taking her for an MRI tomorrow. My mammogram is Tuesday.

We are all now marching to the beat of the same drummer. My family members all now know the fear of scanxiety.

But I’d rather remember the days of flying by the seat of my pants. My youth, where it wasn’t uncommon to be the couch baroness.

Yes, Leslie, I owe you one. A big one.

We are now older women, the kind with pasts.

May you never know the fear of cancer scanxiety.

And if you need a couch to crash on, crash on mine.

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