Thursday, December 19, 2019. A year ago at this time the Christmas holidays were the farthest thing from my mind. Completely understandable since I had just learned that my October 2018 diagnosis of poorly differentiated carcinoma was triple negative cancer, and I was overwhelmed with how limited my treatment options were (see “Exquisitely sensitive” posted 12/23/18).
For the past year cancer has dictated almost every moment of every day. Even when I’m not consciously thinking about it, the little bastard is hovering nearby just within my mind’s peripheral vision. And the truth is, I want it there. I don’t want to let it out of my sight. I don’t ever want to let my guard down. Instead I want to keep it on a leash, under my control and watchful eye. As a two-time cancer patient with a nearly two-decade span in-between, I know I’ll never truly be out of the woods. The next two to five years are my most vulnerable. As the days, months and years go by, the odds just increase that I will die of something else before the cancer has a chance to force its way back in. That puts me into a weird sort of limbo—the cancer has been removed and treated and hopefully any remaining scouts were killed in the process, but I can’t say I’m a survivor. Not yet.
Now, I’m on the path of acknowledging milestones. For instance, on December 10th I saw Dr. Rugo for my 3-month check up following the 6-week check up I had after my last chemo treatment on July 8. It was a good appointment. My bloodwork was perfect. The exam was free of anything concerning that would indicate the cancer is still there. I will see Dr. Rugo every four months going forward.
Another milestone…on December 11th my Temporary Disabled Person Parking placard expired, and it won’t be renewed. That means a lot to me. Is that weird?
So where does that leave me? It leaves me pondering, “Who am I now?” Even though the cancer hasn’t killed me yet, it did kill the part of me that had come to believe cancer was something I had once a long time ago. It killed the me who enjoyed good health and feeling young for her age. It killed the me looking forward to her upcoming retirement with all the cool possibilities for crazy adventures and fun new experiences that lie ahead. It killed the me who joked about what an adjustment it was going to be for my husband Steve and I to spend all our time time together, hoping we didn’t drive each other crazy. It killed the me I used to see in the mirror and replaced her with this super skinny old lady with crazy curly hair and eyelashes that keep falling out.
Now what? Learn to love the me that I’ve evolved into because of cancer. Embrace life for what it is and try to stay in the moment. Spend more time with friends and family. Have fun.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, and all the best for a joyous, healthy, magical and peaceful new year.
When you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. —Oprah Winfrey