I decided to make a little timeline of some unusual and portentous events, which I'd mentioned in a previous post. Call them spooky, call them crazy coincidences, call them signs from God. Whatever. But they're there.
- Earlier this year, starting around January/February...
I started feeling odd. Every day, I’d wake up with this urgent need to get the most out of the day, with this voice in my head repeating that life is short, life is short, you need to do all you can in this life, go go go.
Of course, I didn’t identify this voice as anything meaningful; I felt at most it represented a vague sense of urgency with roots in having lost my father at a young age and witnessing my mother suffer from bad bouts of chemo lately. I figured I simply had a more pressing, practical outlook than most on how life can flip on a whim--swiftly and unexpectedly. And, by the way, I was picturing myself old and infirm in this alternate universe. I was by no means thinking, IN A COUPLE MONTHS YOU WILL FIND CANCER IN YOUR BOOB AND CHEMO WILL KNOCK YOU SIDEWAYS AND MAYBE YOU WILL DIE EARLY.
Suffice it to say, I ignored this voice.
- Around the same time...
Lily has always been an equal opportunity affection-giver. As much as Mike and I have tried to curry her favor with treats and special ear scratches, her reciprocation usually lasts about as long as it takes her to slurp up that salmon skin (.2 seconds). Her impartiality is most evident when Mike and I get back from vacation or time away. She bounces back and forth between us like a tennis ball, off my leg to Mike’s leg, bouncing back and forth. Dead equal.
The last few months, though, she’s been ALL UP ON ME. Like laying on my chest. Resting her head in the nook of my shoulder and noggin. Freaking out more than usual when I come home, jumping, wagging, groaning (happy groans, she doesn't bark). Leading up to the diagnosis, and especially during those first few terrible, frightening weeks, she wouldn’t leave my side. Mike would be sad/fake upset. “Lily hates me and likes you better!” etc. etc. At almost 4 years old, and having been consistent in her affection up until recently, this shift in our dog's behavior is more than eerie. Lily is now my therapy dog. Like I didn't love her enough already!
- One week before finding the lump
I’ve been seeing my mild-mannered, middle-aged lesbian therapist Pam for 7 years (she’s the shit). But this year, I’d gone the longest stretch ever without seeing her, over 8 months. Her office is in Jamaica Plain, awfully out of the way since I'd moved to Cape.
But a couple weeks before my lumpy boob was discovered, I called Pam out of the blue and made an appointment. I really had nothing of note to talk about. I remember little of that session.
The next time I saw Pam again was a week after my diagnosis. I broke the news, and she was flabbergasted. Later I said, "Isn't it weird I called you out of the blue like that, right before?"
She nodded. “And last week... I’ve never heard you talk that way.”
“What way?” I asked.
“You spoke about death and how life was short, and how you needed to get things done soon--professionally, financially, emotionally--because you said who knows how long you’ll be here. You’ve never spoken that immediately about death, especially surrounding your own death. We’ve always discussed your mother and father. You've always treated your own fate as in the distance, separate.”
- May 4
It was my first day at Dana Farber. I was there for a second opinion, although I already knew I wanted to be treated there. I walked into the waiting room of the 9th floor and saw that I was by far the youngest woman in there, by at least 20 years. There were wigs and bare heads and scarves and grey hair. Mike had on a backwards hat and flipflops (I mean, when does he not?)
I was in kind of a buoyant mood that day, because the second I walked through the doors I recognized the efficiency of Dana Farber, the confidence and kindness of the healthcare providers, the special attention placed on young women through their “Young and Strong” program. Every single person I encountered trumped the coldness of a surgeon on the Cape I'd seen prior, a woman who exhibited little empathy when I needed it most.
Midway through that seven-hour day at Dana Farber, which included ultrasounds and meeting my surgeon, oncologist, social worker, nurse and many more, I noticed that a girl around my age, with her boyfriend or husband, had appeared in the waiting room on the bench across from us. Her eyes were wide as saucers and she appeared incredibly frightened. I’ll never forget her face. I thought about her a lot afterwards. Had she just found out that week? I wondered. How was she faring? Will I see her again?
- May 18 (yesterday)
I get a Facebook message from a girl I don’t know. We had no mutual friends. Usually I ignore these, but something pushed me to accept. On her profile, I deduced from a post she also had breast cancer, and she also worked at Boston Interiors, but in another location. She was diagnosed around the same time as me. We started messaging; she’d heard through the grapevine about me and had gotten my name from our VP. At the end of one of her messages she says, “By the way, were you at Dana Farber on May 4???”
I looked closer at her profile picture. It was a wedding photo. She had her hair up, and at first I thought, no way. Then I did a doubletake. It was HER. It was the girl from the waiting room. How bizarre is that?
I could go on an on. But I feel I needed to address how I 100% believe the universe or God or whatever you want to call it is pushing each of us in a direction, and that the key to life is the people that you encounter and those who impact you in small and large ways, and how open you are to acknowledging how intertwined we all are as humans. I know I sound New Agey but it’s what I wholeheartedly believe. You can’t ignore it. And if you do, you’re missing out. Big time.