Pink Dreams : My One Year Cancerversary
I've been on a writing and swimming (two of my biggest passions) slug lately. Maybe it's the summer and along with that the heat and humidity. Maybe I’ve hit the peak of my writing and swimming career, and need to find a new hobby like flower arranging or roller derby.
The summer so far has been a collage of travel and necessary work, which has included teaching kids writing at summer camp, which has taken a detour into a class of free drawing and a game of “Who can be the quiet the longest?” There are weekends of teaching swimming to beginner adults at the pool, which has been a lesson in patience and humility. How to describe the joy of chlorine to people who have bad memories of being pushed into the deep end?
I deeply long for the dog days of summer tied in with childhood, lemonade stands, summer reading lists, lounging by the pool without feeling like I need to check my Facebook updates. I am deeply stressed out and feel a need to jet to Tahiti, and then there is that little voice reminding me that “hey, you should be grateful for these everyday experiences. Life is good.”
With that stream of thought I remember that it's my one year cancerversary. Have I celebrated this milestone? Have I embraced this by being grateful and not complaining? Not until memory stops me in my tracks.
Sometimes in rare moments of silence I think back to last summer and where I was—treatment, recovery and disbelief. I'm a healthy woman, a writer, a journalist, a swimmer, and no way no way could I be struck with such a god-awful sounding disease. At the bookend of my thoughts is gratitude, and the stress ball of everyday life disappears.
A year later I am sitting on an airplane flying to the West Coast to visit the fiancée. Between wedding planning, bridal showers with sashes and tiaras and writing vows, I look back to those who have helped me -- the friend who came to visit me at the hospital and stayed with me after I woke up from surgery, the pink ladies on the social network groups who swiftly offered comfort and advice. I sometimes scan the posts of the women who are still in the eye of the storm, including the pretty woman with two young children who is battling Stage IV cancer.
I friend them, I encourage their Facebook posts with “likes,” I keep them in my thoughts and prayers, in part of guilt and wonder. Why them? Who knows.
Lately friends have been celebrating anniversaries, wedding anniversaries and work anniversaries. The sister has been planning her kidney bean bash, a celebration of life and twenty years of a successful kidney transplant. To date I've avoided the discussion of parties and success of survival. Maybe I just don't want to jinx things.
Indeed a year later fear lingers in unexpected moments, as does a growing desire to give back, lunching with some ladies at the Komen foundation and training for runs that benefit the cause.
There’s a lingering reminder that no matter what happens - a bad day at work, the struggle to achieve in class - things will be ok. I am alive and have my health, I can enjoy this sunny day in Southern California with the fiancée, devour this fist-sized hamburger, a mouthful of cotton candy and scream my lungs out on this very cool new 3D animated ride. Life is good. I celebrate by not bringing up the illness again or fear of its possible return but rather by living. As fortune cookie-like as this sounds, there is no certainty or guarantee of smooth waters again but only of the joy of today.