It takes a lot to get me into that chair. The promise of laughing gas has helped throughout my adult years. Childhood dental trauma has me stressed and worried weeks before my appointment for a simple checkup and cleaning
This day I arrive early, as is my nature. After all who wants to piss of their dentist? My hands already clammy, and my body tingly, I check in, and find a spot in the tiny waiting room. I know the office is designed to create an atmosphere of calm, complete with ambient instrumental music, low lighting, comfortable furniture, a mini waterfall, and an essential oil diffuser that releases calming scents into the air, yet still I am anxious.
There are three others quietly looking at magazines and cell phones. No one else appears to be the least bit nervous. This is how adults are supposed to be, I think.
I reach for the magazines and pull one from the pile. ‘What is Killing These Girl Scouts?’ the headline reads. I am drawn into the mystery. As I read the tales of the now grown up Girl Scouts, who all have cancer, it sparks a distant memory of my own experience at summer camp with the Girl Scouts when I was a child.
I remember that we used lake water, sand, and pebbles to scrub our pots, pans, and plates. We boiled lake water to rinse them and hung them to dry in our individual mesh bags. Later, each sporting their own home made ‘sit-upon,’ we gathered to sing songs, eat s’mores, and tell stories around the camp fire. But the most memorable thing about our weekend at camp was seeing strange fish and ducks. I remember telling my mother that there was a fish with two tails, one with a bent back, and a duck with a foot growing out if its back. This was to be my first, and my last Girl Scout camp out as our family’s’ three year stint in that town had ended, and we moved on.
The article relayed story after chilling story of women experiencing cancers of the reproductive organs, and went on to say that there was an alarming rate of men who were dying of brain cancers. The author described the idyllic little town, and the nearby lake that housed the Girl Scout camp. The lake, she said, had been built next to reclaimed land that had once been a toxic waste dump belonging to a now defunct chemical company. The men and women of the town, who ironically were all around my age, had been fighting to find answers to the questions of whose negligence was responsible for their pain, and who would help them as they fought their own personal battles with cancer, and their desire to protect future townspeople from the still present menace.
I was reminded of the strange and awful smell whenever the wind shifted our way. Not knowing its source I remember my parents joking that there must be a city sewer nearby.
The name of the town was shared at the end of the article, and as I was beginning to suspect, it was the town where my family lived for three years of my childhood.
The stories left me frustrated, and sad for all those sweet little girls, their husbands, and children, but grateful that I had never had cancer.
I had a moment in the quiet of the waiting room to take it all in when the door opened, and the hygienist, clip board in hand, called my name.
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