[This was something I wrote in May of 2018 but apparently hid it from myself at the time, perhaps for reasons that will become obvious.]
Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. In the simplest terms, it illustrates how, if there are two possible states of being (e.g., dead or alive), and an observer can’t actually observe which one is true (e.g., because the cat is in a sealed box), then two different realities exist simultaneously (i.e., dead cat and alive cat).
Besides being an interesting mental exercise – and something to talk about when you want to sound smart – I’ve discovered it can also be a great source of peace.
A few days ago I had a biopsy taken from a small itchy spot on my back. The results came back as squamous cell carcinoma – skin cancer. I had this on my arm many years ago and back then the dermatologist just cut it out, stitched me up, and sent me on my way. No big deal. But this time – either because it’s more serious or because a different dermatologist is more conservative – I was referred to a surgical oncologist and have spent this week talking to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, medical technicians, appointment schedulers and insurance providers. The current plan is for me to have surgery in a couple of days to remove the offending cells, but not before multiple tests have been conducted to see if the cancer has spread to or from other parts of my body. In other words, they’re trying to determine if this time it IS a big deal.
Naturally, the word “cancer” used in relation to me, personally, gets my attention. And while I think I have a pretty good attitude about it all, it would take someone a lot more Zen than I not to feel a little freaked out and anxious. Especially as I go through this battery of unfamiliar tests.
Today I had a combination CAT scan/PET scan. You can look up what that involves, but the best way I can describe it is to say it’s like having a member of the Star Trek medical team check you out head to toe with a Tricorder. Basically, they’re looking at every nook and cranny in every one of my organs to see if there’s anything growing in me that shouldn’t be. Tomorrow I’ll learn the results, and depending on what they are, it could be life changing.
Before and during the scan, I was terribly nervous. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe and used multiple techniques to try to keep my mind off the implications – without great success, I might add.
But tonight, with the test complete and the results likely sitting on the surgeon’s desk in a dark office somewhere, I feel a great sense of peace. Like Schrödinger’s Cat, I’m existing in two realities: I am both seriously ill and perfectly healthy. And at this moment there is no way for me to know which. There’s also absolutely nothing I can or need to do about it…except wait until tomorrow when we open the box.
Addendum: The scans showed that except for the already identified squamous cells – which were weirdly wrapped around a subcutaneous nerve – no cancer was found anywhere in my body. I had day surgery to remove the squamous cells and all was and continues to be well. So I guess the cat really was alive!]