The day a fortune-teller told me to stop looking at the future
I came into this psychic’s house on a foggy morning in Santa Monica.
Her living room was filled with piles of books about quantum physics and medical herbs. A white fluffy cat jumped on my lap whilst I was trying to make myself comfortable in this clichéd scenario.
I was feeling a bit stupid. I mean, who goes to psychics and doesn’t feel that you’re about to be tricked?
She offered me a cup of lavender tea and as I sat down at her reading table she looked at me and said in a strong French accent:
“Don’t worry sweetie. I have cancer too.”
I had never seen this woman in my life. I had made one phone call to her landline so I could book this appointment.
I would never usually set foot in this kind of place.
But a month before, I received a phone call — the phone call I’d been dreading every day of my life since I learned that people could die.
My brother called me to drop the news: my dad’s blood test revealed his CA-19 was beyond 70k when the reference number of a healthy person is 37. It was obvious that he had advanced pancreatic cancer and this was confirmed in a scan a week after.
Until that day, I figured that I had never had any real problems in my life.
Every challenge I had been through was a problem-solution matter. I’m broke. Ok, I just need to save some money, stop getting Ubers to work and say ‘no’ to that expensive hen-do in Barcelona. I got dumped. Time to call the usual fuck-buddy and get distracted. I got fired. It’s just a job, I can apply for another one.
But a dad with pancreatic cancer? There’s no solution for dad with pancreatic cancer. I even searched for it on Google, only to find several images of a scrawny Steve Jobs and to discover that the life expectancy for someone with his type of cancer is 5 months.
I went on the most thorough investigation of my life, in search of stories of patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer who got cleared. I spent hours awake, reading Israeli medical research papers and online forums where people from Kansas shared their CA-19 marks after every chemo session. I can’t count the number of times I got fooled by fake news click-bait with ‘Finally, the cure for cancer’ headlines. And the number of times that I hated mankind. Humans are capable of creating robot strippers, where the fuck is the cure for cancer?
I was experiencing, for the first time, the true meaning of sadness: lack of hope. I went down the rabbit-hole of guilt. Why didn’t I spot my dad had been developing a tumour for so long? I’d noticed he was a bit more quiet than usual in the last year and that he had started to be a fussy eater. Is this a consequence of being a bad person? Am I being punished for not thinking enough about my family? For lying to my dad about using his credit card? Why is this happening to me and my family? Why pancreatic cancer, not prostate cancer? What have I done to deserve a dad with pancreatic cancer?
Life as it was, in three dimensions, was suddenly unbearable. I needed to find a fourth one.
I tried going to church, but it accentuated my guilt.
I tried Kabbalah, which I found helpful, but I couldn’t stand the people who attended the centre.
I bought crystals, which didn’t do anything.
I tried alcohol, which helped a lot, but it carried a risk of giving me cancer as well.
It was over a drink that a friend said:
“There’s this psychic… I heard that Gisele Bundchen goes to her every time she comes to LA…”
I knew that was just another Hollywood rumour you hear over a glass of wine on the Sunset Strip. It was bullshit, just like the rumour that James Franco’s house is filled with hundreds of paintings of his face. But at that moment, I needed to believe in something. In anything. I’d easily splurge 85 dollars for a tiny bit of hope. And Gisele’s life seems pretty perfect (except for the fact that I suspect she still loves Leo) — this psychic must be good.
So there I was in her kitchen, wiping my tears off with some recycled tissue paper. How did she know my dad had cancer?
She then told me that she had been suffering from the disease for about 5 years, that she had denied any medical treatment and that she had been using turmeric and weed to cope with the symptoms. For her, it was all about quality, not quantity.
I was asked to shuffle and pick different tarot cards. She banged on about many aspects of my life. Some of them matched. Others not so much. But I wasn’t paying too much attention. I wanted to get to the part where I would ask if my dad was going to survive. If some miracle drug would be invented in the next month and make him tumourless.
When I finally asked the question, she said:
“I’m not answering that, sweetie.”
I couldn’t hide my disappointment.
“Because I don’t want you to see death as the end. Humans are so fixated on finding a cure that they forget to enjoy the last moments of their loved one’s life. We are all going to die. That’s our only certainty in life. Why do you want to pull a card for that?”
No one in my family or circle of friends had yet mentioned the d-word.
They’d sent me .jpgs of Jesus with soft focus edges on WhatsApp, testimonials of celebrities who beat cancer drinking green juice and hundreds of healing mantras.
No one had talked about the possibility that in a few months my father might not be around. Everyone, with the best of intentions, wanted to talk about the positive side of things.
The chat with the French lady in a room that stunk of mould was pretty painful. But somehow, it gave me a great sense of acceptance.
First, because fighting reality is exhausting. To spend every second of your day waiting for divine intervention is nerve-racking.
Second, because it made me focus on how my dad was feeling at the time, rather than concentrating all my energy on a cure.
I realised that my struggle to take in the news was distracting me from his finest moments: his motivation to wake up and go to the gym a day after chemo sessions; how he compared his big ascites belly with my 9-month baby bump; how he showed me his WhatsApp messages from a cancer-patient-only group where members openly admitted they could still an erection; how he, a second after the doctor told him that the third chemo option was no longer working, pulled out a briefcase of granite samples and, like the good salesman he had always been, tried to shamelessly score one last deal; how he didn’t ask for painkillers until the very last day of his life.
These moments were going to live forever.
I paid 85 bucks for a fortune-teller to tell me to stop thinking about the future.
I left her house not feeling like I’ve been robbed, but enlightened.
It was the best 85 bucks I’ve ever spent.