So today is the one year anniversary of finding a random lump in my right armpit and falling into this rabbit hole. Dan & I went to New York last Memorial Day weekend – we saw the Intrepid, I took him to the Met for the first time, and we got to visit lots of friends. On Monday morning, Memorial Day, I was about to hop in the shower of my friend’s apartment. I stretched in front of the mirror and there it was. About the size of a tangerine under the skin on the right side.
And I of course, was unnerved, but not panicked. Even when an ultrasound showed multiple masses, even when it was declared Hodgkins, and even doing biopsies and chemo, I was never panicked. At least, I never felt the sort of ever present unnerving fear that I do now.
Relapse is not just a one time occurrence for most of us 5-15%ers. Even if you’re lucky and you survive the 5 years that they statistically measure in studies (depressing, huh?), you are only a survivor until proven false. It’s a one way street. And while life is a one way street for everyone, of course, it’s quite a sudden and alarming feeling to be so wholly knowledgeable about just what will most likely kill you.
I’ve been having a hard time, therefore, keeping a primarily positive mentality. Because unlike the first go-round, there is no permanent state-of-health to hope and pray and look forward to returning to. There is no going back to that mentality of May 27th, 2012. Ever. Or the mentality of the end of last November, when my scans were clean and I was so convinced that I had beaten it, could hide my surgical scars, and maybe help out some other young person in the future if they were so unfortunate as to be diagnosed with cancer in his or her early 20s.
I’ve told a few people that this is my mid-life crisis. Not necessarily in a fully morbid, short-life-expectancy way, but in that way where you realize that even though everyone dies, your number is coming up perhaps sooner than you think. This sudden fear for my own self-preservation has occurred to me in passing of course, but since realizing my own mortality while watching Field of Dreams at age 5, I’ve had very few real, true, personal encounters with death. All of my grandparents are still living (thank god), as are my extended family and dearest friends. In total, I’ve lost 2 high school friends, a good friend’s mother, and my 18 year old cat. While on the one hand, this makes me grateful for the lives that are still here, I can’t help but feel a little extra horror when considering that I could very truly be the first person in my immediate family to go. And I don’t know quite how to handle that distinction.
I miss the confidence of that youthful sense of immortality that I once had. That I had up until a few months ago. I miss planning my future the way I did on New Years Eve of 2013, as I looked forward to a long life where I had already done my time as the cancer patient and could imagine years of hair and love and babies.
Which reminds me – once I make it through my transplant (you’ll note I say ‘once’ and not ‘if’ because my supporters have drilled it into me to stay positive in language at least) I probably won’t be having biological children. In preparing for this round of treatment, which will knock out my fertility with almost 100% certainty, I tried to freeze my eggs. It turned out that there weren’t many to freeze (possibly a product of the ABVD), and of those remaining, only 1 responded to the barrage of hormones we tossed at it. So let’s hear it for Neo, the one egg, who represents the path that I always saw lying before me, just ready for the living.
Today wasn’t a bad day. I watched a parade, ate a burger and picnic fare, did a little dance, and got in lots of hugs. So don’t think I’m heating up the bathwater, popping some aspirin, and opening up a fresh box of razors (thanks Frank Underwood) – I’m in a place where sunshine and rainbows are still possible. I’m just having some trouble seeing them for what they are.
Now please melt.