It’s like a tennis ball got lodged somewhere underneath my ribcage, just above my diaphragm. That’s what it feels like after I eat. The only thing that makes it feel better is jamming my hand under my ribs, pushing in on my stomach. I don’t feel sick, I don’t have anything but the sharp pain that makes me feel like lying down in my chair.

This has been happening for the past two weeks.

“It’s stress,” Sara said to me the other day. “Try and lay flat on your stomach on something that you can jam into your stomach. That’s what I do.”

So then I tried to practically hump a parking lot pole, because it was waist-height and looked rounded enough on top to relieve the pressure in my gut. I am trying to Heimlich myself all over my home. I’ve taken to holding my right fist with my left hand, and pushing it under there, resting my insides on my knuckles. It doesn’t look pretty, but it keeps me from wincing when we’re working.

“You need to see a doctor,” Jeff said. “Because it could be…” He paused, rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to say what it could be.”

“Just tell me.”

“Well, I’m a hypochondriac, but it could be pancreatic cancer.”

“I love that you went straight to cancer,” I said. “Not even acid reflux. Just: cancer.”

“It’s stress,” Chris said, and then listed off on his hand all the reasons I had to be stressful. “Anybody would be stressed in her situation,” he said. “She just moved, bought a house, got married, changed jobs — of course she’s stressed!”

I am awake right now, on my back in bed, leaning my laptop into my stomach. It’s sort of helping. I am trying to make myself tired. I had a big day today, and a big one tomorrow. I need some sleep. But it feels like someone’s twisting my stomach, pulling it back to my spine. I can hear the liquids in there churning, yelling at me for not treating myself well. I should be sleeping.

Think less stressful thoughts. Think thoughts of stomach peace. Mmm. A baseball bat spiked into my stomach. A very large man standing on my chest. A suffocating bear hug. There is something wrong with this picture.

Think less stressful thoughts. Kittens chasing butterflies. Sheets drying in the breeze. Add a talking teddy bear and I think I just described a commercial for Snuggle Fabric Softener.

I’ll just deal with it. Get used to it. Because I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not giving up coffee. Although, I’ll never forget the moment I asked Evany, “How come you’re drinking decaf?” And pure as sunshine, she smiled at me and said, “Because I could no longer take having bowels of fire.”

This fist-stomach isn’t as bad as bowels of fire. I’m sure it’s temporary. Or, you know. Pancreatic cancer.

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