I don’t want to talk about cancer today. Today I am choosing to live as I did on July 21. With confidence in my body. With the knowledge that I was healthy, and while I needed to lose weight, I was already taking literal steps. When distractions were external. When I believed my increased heart rate was due to things I could turn off, like the news or social media.
I realize how blessed I’ve been. To go nearly twenty years without fear of disease or ill health. I realize how blessed I am now, catching all of this before it caught me, before I even knew it was there.
I’ve been consumed with this new reality to the point where it’s infiltrated every thought, every part of my life. Like a cancer, you could say. It’s annoying. I don’t want to think like that any more. Jim reminds me that from diagnosis to surgery will only be three weeks. That’s not a lot of time, piled up on top of my other diagnoses, to process, let alone accept.
Three days from now, at this time, I should be coming out of surgery. I’m electing to have Monitored Anesthesia Care – MAC – vs. General. When my sister-in-law, a retired surgical nurse of forty years, described the two and that the latter meant they’d do my breathing for me, I decided on the former. It’s my choice, just like choosing a lumpectomy over a mastectomy is my choice. I didn’t know I’d have the option. I’m glad I do. Recovery from MAC should be easier. Basically, that’s all she had to tell me and I would have said “Ding ding ding!” (Which I said anyway.)
One of the toughest parts of all of this is feeling like I’ve lost a bit of my sense of humor. Not lost it, exactly, but I haven’t been dealing with this with my characteristic kitschy, punny outlook. I’ve been So Serious. That’s not me. So that’s got to stop. I’m lucky, darnit. I can’t even feel the darn thing. If I hadn’t seen the mammogram and the ultrasound myself I’m not sure I’d believe it. But it’s there. Oh yes, it’s there.
SEE? I start this by saying I don’t wanna talk about it, so what do I do? TALK ABOUT IT.
Yesterday I spent the day gardening. Which means I cleaned empty pots with soapy water and vinegar and then filled them with dirt and plants. It took me an inordinately long time to do this. At 8:30 in the morning my day started with a COVID test, and while it wasn’t quite a jab to the back of the head, it did make me sneeze. I was home by 9:15 and spent hours, basically until sunset, doing something that would normally take about two. Of course, there is no normal now. There hasn’t been for a while. Even before July 22. Has there ever been a normal? If so, would I want that?
With “normal,” whatever that is or was, on hold, I can create my life now. I always have, to some extent. I haven’t had a traditional career or even a traditional existence, ever. I ask the same question: what is traditional? I’ve never wanted it, whatever it was, and I don’t want it now.
Now, with the backdrop of a world that’s breaking rules and looking at what was “normal” and “traditional” and redefining both, I’m redefining myself. Nothing major. I’ve been working on this for awhile, but it’s a little more present now. I don’t want to go back to the way things were. I don’t want to be 58 pounds overweight ever again. I don’t want to get to the end of the week and wonder where it went. I want to tell stories. I want to make you laugh. I want to teach you something new. I want to make you cry with compassion and introduce you to heroes. I want you to know you can be a hero. You are, to someone. Most likely, to many someones. I want you to meet arrogant geniuses and humble philanthropists. I want to inspire you to make ceviche in a campsite, to learn how a park ranger scares bears (and herself), and to stand on a tall sand dune overlooking an inland sea.
I want to distill the essence of humanity into words. That’s impossible, but I’ve got a lifetime to keep trying.
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