When my mom takes notes at doctor’s appointments she likes to star and quote the good stuff. She loves when doctors give me positive comments and wants to be sure I remember them. Often, I don’t even hear them because I’m so focused on the treatment and brush off the compliments on my progress.
Case and point was last Wednesday’s check-in with Dr. O and team who have been overseeing my care from afar while I receive the infusions locally with Dr. D. In my notebook – the third one we’ve filled with appointment notes since diagnosis – there are a few quotes by Dr. O that my mom felt important enough to record:
“Mucho Fantastico!” (after hearing how my lymphoma pain and b-symptoms have diminished)
“You look great!”
“You are closer to normal than you think.”
The last quote did resonate with me. He said it after I started peppering him with questions about what my restrictions are and getting answers back that seemed like I had total freedom as long as I just listen to my body. I am not used to this after so many years of feeling like I’m shackled.
He got where I was coming from when asking about Zumba and yoga and just simply said: “It seems like many of these questions are related to whether you’re normal or not and you are closer to normal than you think.”
This was a dream phrase for me to hear, but still hard to process. Last Wednesday, May 8, marked four years since my diagnosis date. As I was in NYC for my appointment and distracted by everything that entails, it completely slipped my mind until I got home after a long day and Craig greeted me with: “Happy Cancerversary.”
Woah, gut check. Four years. I can either say:
“I’ve been going through this awful shit nonstop for four, long years.”
Or, I can say:
“I’ve been keeping ahead of cancer for four years and thoroughly enjoying my time despite disease and its baggage.”
Both are true, but this year I lean much toward the latter. It’s been four years and I’m still alive – that’s kind of huge. I rarely get angry about my situation anymore. I’ve come a long way toward integrating it into my life and not letting it take over my life. I’ve learned over these four years that it’s all about balance. Balance the bad with good. Balance the down days with excitement. I slip up – often – and lose my focus, but I’m proud of the coping mechanisms I have found to bounce back.
I don’t know if I quite think of myself as “normal,” especially since I’m still getting weekly chemo injections, but am ecstatic that my oncologist even entertains that concept. I am comfortable with thinking of myself as “more normal than not” and that opens up a whole lot of doors for me, which brings a lot of uneasiness and a lot of pressure, too.
I am trying to find my place in the great, big, wonderful world. Sometimes it’s difficult when I am feeling better because I want to go out and do everything: pick up work, learn an instrument, get into pique physical shape, conform back to my old life or everyone else’s life, then I end up in the ER with shortness of breath and heart palpitations and I realize that I’m not like everyone else.
Am I sick or am I not sick? Can I move forward or not? There’s no clear answer and I work very hard not to get caught up in analyzing it. Some things are just unknown. My fate – anyone’s fate – is one of them. I just happen to have mine staring me very close in the face all of the time, so I think about it more than most.
Whatever will happen tomorrow, or next month, or four years from now, today I feel well and for that I am grateful.
At the beginning of 2013 I set my intentions and vowed to frame my year around the John Borroughs quote: “Leap and the net will appear.” Looking back on four years, I’d say that’s appropriate for where I’m at.
I’m making leaps. Big leaps. Small leaps. Planned and unplanned leaps. So far, a net has always appeared and with each successful landing my confidence has made its own leap upward – little by little. Jumping isn’t so scary anymore.