Linda had a picture of the mammogram room on her blog. I studied the picture. It was in this very room that I sat listening to the radiologist say "This needs to come out, and it needs to come out quickly. You need to find a surgeon..." So it began. I've been back to that room. There are areas of activity that are being carefully followed. What does it mean? I don't know. I have actually gotten to the point that I am pretty matter of fact about it. I cannot break my life up into little chunks of dread like that. I just can't. So I don't. I'm moving forward, not looking back, and I feel much better for it. As Stu phrased it, "I'm in rude good health." Yep. Right this minute, I am. That's all I need to know. But I looked at Linda's picture, and the memories came flooding back. Oh, yes. I remember that room.
I was eating with a group of ladies at a soup and pie luncheon. One of them, Dolly, said, "I felt so much better when I read your last article. I'm tired a lot, and I feel dumb blaming it on chemo and radiation. You're so busy and bubbly that it made me worried that I did not feel like you seemed to feel." Dolly was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was still having chemo for mine. "How long has it been since you finished chemo? Radiation?" I asked, and even as I did, the memory of the blue chemo chairs, the port accessing that made Tim so sick (even averting his eyes, the mere thought of the needle going into my chest made him sickish). Reciting my birthdate over and over to insure that the medicine I was given was correct. Watching the drugs drip, drip, drip into my veins, the woozy feeling, as if I were moving underwater, not reacting quickly, every movement slow, a major effort, vision affected, nauseous but not quite, trying to be brave. All those chemo memories came rushing back, in a vague sort of 'oh, yeah, I remember that' sort of way.
Another person wrote of a problem she was having with the benedryl given to prevent allergic reaction. Again, a dreamlike memory of the first time I was given that shot after we began the second part of chemo, where they switched from two drugs to just the one. It was supposed to be easier, and that is what I was expecting, but the benedryl. Dear Lord. It was injected into the port, and I nearly passed out from it, like hitting a brick wall. Immediate. Sudden. I struggled to ignore this, but unlike most of the other side effects, this one could not be ignored. I could barely speak for the lightheaded exhaustion. Another dream sequence. 'Oh yeah, I remember that...'
Cancer seems so far away. I've described it before as sort of like looking through a telescope backwards. It seems such a distant memory, but then I realize that last year at this time, I was finishing chemo, and it surprises me. I've been thinking of cancer a lot, and I read through some of my own writings of that time, thinking over and over again, 'oh, yeah....'
I remember once looking up at the stars as Tim and I left a dinner holding hands. We were quiet. It had been emotional hearing other people talk about cancer. I looked at those stars and I thought of other times when I had studied the stars and did not have cancer, and it suddenly occurred to me that there would come a day when, cancerfree, I would study them again. It was such a hopeful feeling, optimism unfolding like a spring leaf. 'Oh yeah....'
It is strange to me that I find myself remembering those days and being just a little surprised by the memories. It seems so strange, almost as if it happened to someone else. A lot of people have been looking back at cancer on their blogs this week. Karen. Sara. Stephanie. Kerry. Alli. WhiteStone. Daria. The list goes on and on. I've met so many people dealing with this, and it seems all of us have collectively stopped to take stock of where we're at. I find it interesting that not all of us have had the same cancer, or the same treatment, or the same side effects, or the same experiences, but all of us seem to come out on the other side with the same sort of perspective. We are much more confident in ourselves, much more certain about what it is that truly matters in this life, much more determined to live, just live.
Tonight, I have decided to go out and just watch the stars. I will remember that night that Tim and I left the dinner. I will study the stars and I will believe that I am cancer free. Looking back at cancer is a far more hopeful perspective than being smack dab in the middle of it, and I am grateful.