Now what?

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.

santaHatNow 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

 

 

Thankful

Thursday, November 28, 2019. Here I sit in my mom’s warm and cozy house in northern Idaho feeling thankful.

At this time last year I didn’t know what my future looked like. So much uncertainty. Every day felt surreal.

Today I’m still not sure what my future holds. Now it’s a matter of wait and see.

The real difference is that I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment and truly live every day. I try to stay present and find my joy knowing nothing is certain except for one true thing…the love and support and kindness and caring shared by and with all of you. I am thankful every moment for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. 🍁🍁🍁

I feel a very unusual sensation—if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude. –Benjamin Disraeli

Road trip

Wednesday, November 13, 2019. I took a road trip a couple weeks ago. It was on a whim, really.

It was a Tuesday, and I’d been emailing back and forth with my cousin in Wyoming. I mentioned I was hoping to drive to Mesquite to visit her folks in the spring. She said to let her know when and she would meet me there.

It got me to thinking, why wait until spring? The weather forecast was clear. I had no appointments. No obligations. I was feeling good. I hadn’t been on a road trip in over a year. I had the itch, and I decided to scratch it.

I emailed my cousin, and said I was thinking about leaving on Thursday and to mull over meeting me there. In record time she emailed me back to say there was nothing to mull over. She would leave the next day.

So, at 530 on Thursday morning I hit the road for Mesquite. I decided not to go the faster, more straightforward route that would take me through San Francisco, Bakersfield, Henderson and Las Vegas. Instead I chose to go through Reno on I-80 then venture south on NV-439 which took me through towns like Yerington, Coaldale, Tonopah and Coyote Springs.

On the way there, I drove straight through. There were lots of twists and turns, and what seemed like endless straight stretches through open range where you had to keep a watchful eye for grazing cattle. There were areas where the speed limit was 45 mph in deference to the wild horses of which I saw many. Still another had flashing signs warning of a major sheep crossing.

I also drove past Area 51 with its warning signs and giant alien statue towering above and in front of the souvenir shop.

area51When I got to Mesquite, 14 hours later, my aunt and uncle and cousin were waiting outside in the dark, welcoming me with shouts and laughter and crazy love. As exhausted as I was I jumped out of my car, gave massive hugs and kisses all around, and then jumped up and down in unbridled glee.

It was an amazing journey, and in retrospect a metaphor for the wild and crazy ride I have been on the last 14 months with all the twists and turns and deadly warning signs. It wasn’t an easy route. The long straight stretches were reminiscent of all my waiting and wondering and introspection. Area 51…well no explanation is necessary for that. The incredibly warm and love-filled welcome and shouts of genuine affection and relief that prevailed when I finally arrived, reminded me of all of you who have supported me and loved me and encouraged me and told me with genuine, unbridled affection I would make it.

And I did. I’m still here.

Just where you are—that’s the place to start. —Pema Chödrön