This week’s celebration is easy. Thank you Ruth Ayers for holding a space for our celebrations of all sorts.
Nine years ago today, at 43 years of age, I sat in a medical office and heard Dr. David Chan tell me I had breast cancer, and it was going to be a long and difficult year, and I would most likely make it out on the other side, okay.
All I heard was the word CANCER. I thought I was going to die. I was sort of prepared– I had felt something that was not there the month before. And the radiologist the week before was pretty obviously looking at something really ugly inside my breast with her ultrasound wand. And the biopsy was pretty frightening too. But hearing the actual words, well– it freaked me out. “Can someone get me some water?”
“This is not the time to panic,” he said. He was sort of stern with me, geez. I knew immediately that he was the doc for me, and I asked the nurse/counselor/hand-holder if she could arrange to get me channeled to his office. She would try. A week later I was in his office, hearing the plan.
I remember walking down the hall to his office. A young and bald woman was standing in the appointment line, and we locked eyes. Her gaze was a bit defiant, a bit sympathetic, and a bit of “I look like you will soon…”
I lost every single hair on my body. Yep, every single one.
I slept a lot.
My colleagues made dinner for me and my family.
I taught second grade every day except when I had chemo on Fridays.
I learned that I was deeply loved.
My friends held me close. They cried a lot too.
My family held me closer.
When I told my nine year old daughter that one of the things that was going to happen to me was I was going to have surgery to remove my left breast, she gasped and asked me if I had told dad yet. I assured her he would be okay, and that he was more of a butt man anyway.
I learned that I was really strong.
People prayed for me.
People knitted hats for me (do you know how cold your head gets without hair?)
I gave thanks for Western medicine and also gratefully experienced Reiki and visualization, yoga, and support groups.
I met some of the finest and strongest human beings I have ever known.
I lost a boob.
I gained an understanding of the fragility of life. And thus the beauty and value of each moment.
I recognize the bravery and honesty with which every person with cancer lives.
I am still here.
I hope it never comes back.