What can happen in one year? Well, as someone who has gone through breast cancer treatments, I can tell you that a lot can happen in one year.
You can endure and survive one of the most difficult times of your life. You can even thrive and flourish.
It was a year ago on a Wednesday that I found the tumor in my breast. And on that Friday, I had a mammogram and ultrasound and biopsy – and then had to wait through the long Labor Day Weekend to get the results. I could tell by the radiologist’s reaction that it was likely to be cancer, but I tried not to dwell on that. I remember I had a very peaceful Sunday, being in the present, going to see my friend Janet who is with The Gum Creek Killers. They performed at Sluggo’s. I really enjoyed the evening.
And when Tuesday finally came, when I got the call saying that the biopsy results had come in, I had a feeling that my life was about to change. And it did. The “terrible and wonderful” of this title comes from my thoughts as I sat in my vehicle after the radiologist showed me the paperwork. I was in for a terrible – and wonderful – journey.
Lots of people talk and write about their reaction to hearing, “It’s cancer.” But my radiologist just passed the paperwork across the table to me. It was a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo, technical terms, “carcinoma” among them. I think I read aloud “carcinoma” and looked at the radiologist, puzzled. Why didn’t he just tell me in layman’s terms, “You have cancer”? Maybe that was too hard for him, but he did finally say “carcinoma means cancer.”
There it was. Out on the table. Literally. They gave me the pink breast cancer bag with goodies (that seemed so very odd), and off I went, back into my world. My newly-changed world. About to embark on one of the most difficult journeys of my life. Certainly the most difficult physically. I’d not had surgery since I had my tonsils out at age three. I’d been basically healthy for 52 years. Until now.
I survived the eight months of chemo and then surgery and then more chemo and then radiation. It was hard. But I had lots of support. Some of the people who supported me the most were ones I knew all along that I could count on. Some surprised me. Some friends were right there, offering help. Others disappeared. I learned a lot about myself. I learned about others. I persevered.
I tried to focus on gratitude, on the small daily gifts we receive each day, on healing and wellness.
I came out the other side feeling blessed that the journey wasn’t worse than it was. Feeling grateful for life and love and friends and family and beauty and connectedness.
Is the journey over? No. I’m still healing. I know that cancer can come back. I know I will die one day, maybe not from cancer. But I will die. As will each of us.
I know I’m not assured of anything. I know that each moment is a gift. Am I concerned about the mammogram I’ll have in about 10 days? Yes. Do I dwell on that? No. Am I actively anxious? No. I know I have right now, time to write in my blog on a Friday evening. I think about tomorrow, driving to Savannah. And picking up my sister at the airport there on Sunday for us to have a few days together. Yes, I’m making plans for the month – and even for months away. But I know they’re tentative. Because all I ever really have is now.
I know I’m in the flow, wherever it takes me. It took me through cancer. It’s taking me beyond that. I don’t know where. But the water is cool and sparking. And I’m buoyant. That’s all I need – to follow the flow, to go with the current. To breathe in and out during the rapids and calms. To float through the eddies and currents.
And to be present during the ride, whatever, wherever it is.