Sound of the summer

The sound of the summer. Loudest underneath the shade of the large oak trees in the backyard, even in the still of an afternoon. No birds or butterflies passing by. The sun at its peak, sky so bright it’s white. Cicadas, toward the end of their long life, rubbing their wings together, luring in mates. We would run around, collecting those tan little shedded exoskeletons. Pluck them from trees with some effort, build up a pile on the back porch like trophies, just because we could. In my memory I think of them as a symphony. There was movement, different cicadas from different corners of a tree, of a yard, of a neighborhood coming together in unison. I recall thinking it a miracle of sorts when they would crescendo altogether in some long outbreath, then recede and fade so slightly. Only to pause and begin their weeee oo weeee oo weeeeee again and again.

This will always be the sound of the summer for me. 

Even when something like the song of the summer comes and goes. 2022, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time.” It is about damn time.

I just crossed ten years of life with and after cancer.

About damn time.

Ten years ago in 2012, the song of the summer was Carly Rae Jepson, “Call Me Maybe.” 

I remember the phone call, asking me to drive into the clinic for the results of my breast biopsy.

I knew right then it was not going to be a maybe.

And yet here we are. To commemorate the event, I had an OB/GYN appointment. Serendipity of scheduling, I guess.

Just a regular appointment to talk things through, chemicals, chemically-induced menopause, hormones. And the doctor, while rescanning all of my charts, inquired, “when’s the last time anyone has discussed your ovarian cancer risk with you?” Oh, right. That. I knew that because of my genetic mutation, discovered mid-treatment, one of the things that helps make me me, I have a lot of increased risks for one cancer or another. There was a certain point in my recovery, after the first diagnosis and then the pre-cancer second diagnosis, if we call it that, where I tucked all the other cancer risks deep into my mind – ovarian, pancreatic, melanoma, prostate. Ok, yes, I actually put that last one out of my mind completely. 

But for all the others, like the cicadas, I burrowed down. Stretched myself to block out the sound of it all. Not wanting to be deafened by the noise in my brain.

Wasn’t my experience so far enough for one lifecycle? One lifetime? 

Hadn’t I shed enough skin along the way?

The doctor hop-skotched through the screening she was now recommending, bloodwork and ultrasound every six months. And because I really do need my ovaries after all the suppression they have withstood, the next best thing would be to take my fallopian tubes. Because, they’re learning, that’s where ovarian cancer typically starts.

I sat there, in the cloth gown, worn nearly soft by so many others receiving so much information before me, both good and devastating. Blackness creeped in around me and the sound of blood pumping through my body, like that weee oo weee ooo weee of the cicadas, becoming louder in my ears.

Deep painful breaths, bringing myself back to earth, back to the room, back to my body.

So my summers – after the solstice when the days start getting shorter, ever so perceptibly – are bookended by this day on the calendar. A somber event some years. A celebration in others.

Above it all, I just want to be here to hear the music, to be part of the collective experience, to feel the sound of the summer.

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