One year ago today, on my birthday, I sat in a hospital room getting a lump biopsied, a lump I knew deep down was cancerous no matter how many people told me I was too young and that it was probably nothing. Tears streamed down my face and I thought about my life and how did I get here and why is this happening?
In the waiting room I stared at birthday texts and Facebook posts, struggling to respond normally, like I wasn’t absolutely freaked, like I wasn't wondering if that would be my last birthday.
As I sat there in my robe (a nice heated robe to start out, but while I waited, and waited, and waited, for them to insert a needle to see for sure if my days were numbered…in no time that robe lost its warmth).
On top of all that, I got a call from my mother asking if I wanted get lunch after my appointment, she was right down the road getting chemo and would finish up around the same time…so…
Yeah. To say this past year has been difficult, depressing, frightening, and fucking insane would be an understatement. I said at the beginning I was glad this happened, it would make me stronger, all that. After 12 months I’d like to alter that statement. I’m not glad. I’d have loved to learn another way, thank you very much. I think losing my father and watching my mother battle this disease has made me pretty damn strong, so this leaves me further upset and traumatized and sore.
But I'm alive and I am SO LUCKY. I have a good prognosis and so far as my docs say, I'm cancer free. Though, I'm too seasoned in the cancer game to identify with the warrior/survivor stuff, plus, I personally think that takes away from those who will be in treatment in perpetuity, in sort of a purgatory, like my mom. So I'll just say I endured. And what did I endure? Jesus. 1 round of rushed IVF, hundreds of needles, 16 rounds of chemo, 7 wigs, 7.5 panic attacks (always in my car, in the work parking lot), 30 rounds of radiation, 3 different calendar planners with appointments and phone numbers scribbled in the margins, 3 nights in the hospital, and lastly, compounding all of this - a feeling of guilt that I'm "finished" while those like my mother will never be.
But. If I can cast aside all that (and my fears), if I'm able to see the light - and with lots of reflection and help and support, among other things - I can - I'll say that I'm so, so happy to be alive. I'm grateful for each and every day and for each and every person who has reached out and let me know they cared. I'm especially grateful to Mike.
How have I changed? Well, I just don’t give a shit, pardon my French, about certain things anymore, and for this experience I grudgingly admit that I’m thankful for it jolting me out of a relatively cushy, predictable, repetitive existence we sometimes find ourselves in.
Long story short, I love life and I love you all. There’s my reflection on 4/19/17, after one hell of a year.
I'm 5 months from my last chemo (and about 1 hour from my last Herceptin, which really kills the buzz) and a week shy of my one-year anniversary of finding the lump. In cancer lingo it's called a Cancerversary. And as it approaches I have started to feel a weird apprehension, a pressure, to have somehow by now reached an epiphany of sorts - like I should be fist pumping and experiencing heart-filled triumph and shunning all non-organic food particles within a 5 feet radius.
Am I thankful enough? Have I changed enough - meaning not only my lifestyle, but my outlook? Have I repented properly? Do I deserve the life that drugs and needles and terror and $4,540 at the Dana-Farber parking garage have so blessedly afforded me? God. "That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself," said my therapist, as I wept for the first time in months (thanks Lexapro). And it is. I know it, rationally. But I still feel guilty and I don't know...short of something. Short of what?!
Don't know. But I'm evolving and I am thankful and no, I probably don't express it enough. It's because I'm trying to live this life I've been so far able to keep.
And I'm also trying to rock a hair bonnet. I'm trying.