A few days from now it will be five years since my official cancer diagnosis. I say official because something had been nagging at my soul for weeks. The kind of quiet panic that wakes you in the night, causes you to plead with God even when you’re not sure what bad thing is about to happen. There is such a fine line between being hopeful and being practical. And, like most of us past the age of – oh, I don’t know TWELVE – I had learned that often times despite how good you try to be, how kind or loving or honest, many times things just don’t go the right way.
First, my favorite nurse at my favorite doctor’s office told me what my report said. Then, my favorite radiologist who lives in paradise and is my friend, read the images I sent her via email. So when I got the call and heard the words, “Honey, you have a cancer”, I didn’t cry or gasp or fall into a chair. Because I already knew. I had already cried and gasped from the shock of it.
Me. Healthy as a horse me. Strong, outdoorsy, tomboy me. Sick. Sick with cancer.
It was just more than I wanted to accept but acceptance is the first step in kicking ass. So I said, “bring it”. Cancer, you have messed with the WRONG girl this time. I don’t have time for the likes of you. I have love and laughter and children and grands and joy and trees and sunshine and bugs and flowers and sunsets to enjoy.
Now, five years later, I am so very relieved and happy to be on this side of that burnt, lifeless patch. I am so glad to not have to go to Houston every week. Grateful to not have rocket fuel + rat poison + acid poured into my chest. Grateful takes on a whole new meaning once you’ve been there .. in the burnt patch.
But what I didn’t know, what they never tell you is that yes, you will survive this – at least for the time being – but you might not recognize yourself for a while. No one in my medical team addressed the long winter that follows that burnt patch. Yes, my hair and my eyelashes and my eyebrows returned. My wounds healed, my strength slowly came back. But I wasn’t me. I’m still not .. me.
So what I have learned is, that just like I had to accept the fact that I had cancer, I have to accept that the new me, older, more worn, less shiny, more prone to aspirin and naps is not a diminished version of me, it’s the survivor version of me. My scars and my wrinkles and my gray hair, my not-so-brown, not-so strong self is still a blessing. I am still here. The only one who is disappointed by the things I can’t do any more — is me. And “suck it up, buttercup” .. there is still love and laughter and children and grands and joy and trees and sunshine and bugs and flowers and sunsets to enjoy.
I might be rusty, but that just shows that I’ve lived and fought and won. Sometimes rust holds together all the juicy stuff on the inside.
I’m still me. Just .. a little rusty.