Sunday, September 30, 2012

Almost a lifetime ago

September 30, 2004 was my D day.
I was diagnosed with cancer on this day 8 years ago.
This day marks the dividing line between my life before cancer...and my life after it.

A few months after my surgery (hiding behind a turtleneck)

On that day 8 years ago if someone would have told me what was ahead in those hardest years, I might have thrown my hands up and given up.

If someone would have told me that by the time I'd cleared the hurdles and life altering that would come on the road to my 'cure' I'd have to go through it all over again with yet another form of cancer... I would have said no way, Jose. This is just too damn hard to face.

I'd already been through too much as a sick kid who lost most of her friends and became all but invisible at her high school as she battled her way through.  That was enough. Now was the time to make up for all that. Now was not the time for cancer. But I had no say in it.

And here I stare that date on the calendar....and realize I made it through that dark time...and many since it. But I didn't do so without a lot of support from friends and family who believed in me.
And on this day I think of them.

On this anniversary (a mixed blessing day) I also think of the different life I live now. I didn't know THEN on that last day of September that I would not only face my own battle with cancer...but the battles of others.

THEN I could not have handled the news that I would meet so many friends who would die in their pursuit to fight this disease with everything they have. That fact would have been too much to bear.

with Amber
Had someone told me I would know this disease intimately even after my battle was over...I would have said I wasn't strong enough.

Had I known that I would hold someone's hand who was preparing to die, I would have said "I can't do that."

 THEN I did not have quite the knowledge, then I did not have quite the courage. THEN I wasn't who I am now.

But I also didn't know THEN that I would have unparalleled joy and celebrate with others who walked their own roads. The friendship and bonds I'm lucky to experience fill my heart. But I only know that now.

I can't forget that this life...the one I never imagined I could work my way through, is good. Yes, there is a price to pay for it. An emotional weight  comes with knowing more about a disease that only used to be a headline for me. I can't ever "thank my lucky stars" for cancer. It was not a happy journey. It was not an easy lesson.
But it was the road I was given...I just had to decide how to travel it.

How you live is the choice you make every day. And somewhere along the way I made a decision that changed things. I was never going to go back to a life before cancer. I was never going to erase September 30th from my life history.

Somewhere along the way I figured out that cancer for me meant something more, more than a scar, or a bald head, or lost wages and opportunity...that this hard lesson would be used for something else. I am tremendously grateful, not for the cancer...but for the life I have... even after D day.

With 3 special teens

'Even the wind feels better on the other side..."  ~Christine Baze - Radiaton Katrina