As I get ready to head off to my second round of chemo today, I’m reflecting on how I’ve been a different version of myself lately, especially in the last three weeks since my first chemo. I’m weepy and quiet and have much less tolerance than I usually do for willful ignorance, stupidity, idle gossip, and people who aren’t open and honest. Heck, I even started feeling bad for the Red Sox and their ten game losing streak, but that stopped yesterday when Big Papi got his groove back and my good juju helped them win. Damn!
I am considerably more weepy and sentimental and would love to chalk it up to chemo brain, but that would be the easy explanation. What is really going on is that I have come right up to the precipice of my mortality. I am standing as close to the edge as I’ve ever come. I know I just turned 62 last week, but in my mind, I am 19. I visualize numbers in my head as a series of connecting lines, a continuum, where at number 10, the line takes a right turn, then at number 20, another right turn. I am permanently fixed at the corner between 19 and 20, where all things are possible and endless, life is in front of me to make of it what I will, and the gold ring is out there for me to figure out plans (and contingency plans if the first plan didn’t work) as a way to grab it.
When I met the first time with Dr. Annette Fontaine, my oncologist at the New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque where I am getting chemo, she told me, “If you had come to us this time next year, you would have been in very bad shape.”
“Like, what kind of bad shape are you talking about?” I asked her. “Would you have been able to save me?”
“I don’t know,” she told me and held my gaze. “What you have is very aggressive and life threatening and we need to start your treatment now.”
When I asked her if she could save me now, she said, “Yes.”
I’ve been hanging on that “Yes,” but it’s the thought that I could possibly have only had one year left that is causing me to reflect, re-examine, and think about moving my mind’s eye further up that number continuum in my head.
I’ve dug deep my whole life. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done or become the person I am today without spending my adult life digging deep, getting help, and being as honest with myself as possible. Knowing, though, that this could have been the last year of my life has pushed me into new territory, into an unknown frontier that I didn’t plan on going to.
Since this whole mess started, I’ve been told more than once that I’m lucky. I certainly don’t feel lucky having cancer or feel lucky being branded with a Scarlett BH (bald head), and I don’t believe in that 8th grade concept of being lucky just because you are. For years I had a quote from Jack Nicholson hanging over my computer that said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
If I’m lucky it’s because I’ve worked hard to make my luck. I have wonderful doctors who have been referred to me by wonderful friends, friendships I’ve worked to grow and maintain with loving, caring, incredible people whose relationships are important to me. I’m hanging on to their love and support.
I’m also hanging on to everyone who is thinking of me and all of you who are taking the time look at my blog.
Thanks for reading.