Last Friday marked my one-year anniversary of having the C-bomb dropped on my life.
I didn’t feel like celebrating this particular milestone, maybe because I’m still in treatment, maybe because life has a way of going on and I didn’t want to celebrate that horrible day last year when it actually seemed to lose its potential to do that – to go on.
But it is a milestone nonetheless, and it deserves to be acknowledged. There are things I’ve learned this past year, and there have been amazing gifts that came along with this curse. People do surprising things; you encounter strangers who are a part of this sisterhood-that-no-one-wants-to-join, and they change you with their kindness.
I learned a lot about myself, the depth of my strength, and its limits. I learned that sometimes, no matter what the research tells you, you should just go ahead and have that drink if it makes you feel more human. I learned about my capacity for courage as well as my hitherto unexplored capacity to fall apart and let people take care of me. I didn’t know before that saying “yes” to help can actually make you stronger, or that allowing people to love you is the same as loving them back.
I look at family differently now; mine was always a close one, true, but something has changed, not just in the way we value the little triumphs and big joys – like my sister-in-law’s pregnancy (I’m going to be an aunt!!!) – but we pick up the phone more often just to check in. When I spend days with my daughter now, I’m looking less to pass the time with her and more to soak it up. And even though I’m still the ringmaster in my own work/love/social life/family/household circus, I don’t feel like a total failure when one of the balls drops.
Not that I’ve learned to be a wise, patient, live-every-moment, super zen specimen of humanity. I can still get pissed off at traffic jams and rude waiters and the garage being a mess, believe me.
Anyway, regardless of what I may have learned, I don’t for one second have any “thank-yous” to say to cancer. Far from it. Because if it weren’t cancer it could have been anything else – life just threw us into a vortex of fear and stress and pain this past year, and we made it through. Me and my husband and my daughter. Our family, our friends, even some acquaintances came along for the ride. We made it through together. And I’m not grateful to cancer – I’m grateful to them, the people who held my hand and cooked my dinners and shaved my head and made me laugh in spite of it all and just walked with me through the vortex. And to the way a whole year of getting through the layers of this gigantic crapcake has changed me.
So, here we are a year later and I don’t want to celebrate exactly, but my husband and I are thinking maybe we’ll just have a nice romantic dinner somewhere and look at each other and shake our heads in disbelief. And then make a champagne toast to having survived the past year and being strengthened as a couple by all we’ve been through. Its not that we think the fight is over, but we really believe that now we can survive almost anything together.
Which is a good thing, considering the economic forecast. Like I said, if its not one thing it’s another, right?