It’s a bit mind-boggling to realize that today marks exactly one year since I received my cancer diagnosis. I remember details from that day vividly (sitting at my desk at work, receiving the call from my doctor, tears choking my voice as I asked questions, the difficult call to my husband).
By the time I had gotten that call, I had already been through two sets of scans and a biopsy and while I had understood intellectually that the news could be bad, I didn’t really believe it, since I’d been lucky so far in life. And maybe I still am lucky, but boy has “luck” taken on new meaning in the past year. It has become the luck of having stage 2 vs. stage 4 cancer, or of being able to endure the treatment needed. It’s no longer the luck of living my life without major complications.
It seems as if life will forever be marked by the before and after of that day. Before that day I was heading into retirement, enjoying scaling back my work schedule, increasing the time I spent swimming and doing house projects, and looking forward to what was ahead. Well, all that went to shit on June 15, 2018, and it’s only in the last six weeks that I’ve started to feel like a human being again.
After that day came surgeries, chemo, radiation, infections, fatigue, illness, hospitalization, and recovery. But most of all, the “after” is marked by lowered expectations for what life has in store for me. I learned the hard way that diagnoses can change and I have to steel myself for the news that the cancer has spread or requires more aggressive treatment. There’s no “it’s over” with cancer. It’s always there, lurking in the shadows, and can come back any time. Sure, I’m doing what I have to to lower my odds, but if it comes back, those odds will rocket to 100% pretty fast. And who knows if I’ll want to fight this fight again. It nearly destroyed me this time, and I was pretty healthy at the start of this, so I hold open the possibility that I might not choose to give it my all if there’s a next time. We’ll see.
The other big change in the past year was learning a tremendous amount about the people in my life. I learned who could and would be there for me in a crisis, and I learned that there were some who I thought would be there, who weren’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t. Important lesson. I also learned that a year is a long time and even though I was still in rough shape less than two months ago, some people couldn’t stick around that long, and sort of disappeared or got bored or didn’t actually care that much to begin with. Others stuck close and for that I am truly grateful. And still others who disappeared with my diagnosis are still gone (no loss there) or have come back as if nothing happened (I’m not having any, thanks very much).
So here I sit on a beautiful sunny porch on a lovely morning, grateful to be alive, to have energy back, and to be able to enjoy what life has to offer, even if it’s just for today. None of that seemed possible a year ago.