I’m sitting in my lovely neighborhood coffeeshop not knowing where to start. I spent last week really stewing over some thoughts and I don’t know how to put them in a cohesive post.
In October, 2015 I received the dreadful news of cancer popping up in my lungs. I did what every cancer patient should never do- I always do it- and I googled. The floodgates opened. I googled and I googled and I clicked and read and read. I found that a woman with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and lung metastasis has a life expectancy of 12-18 months. I did the math. 18 months would be April, 2017. I imagined the months leading up to April 2017 as I’ve seen others live their final months with cancer. (pain, misery, hard, hard and more hard) I imagined my girls being 15 and 13, my boys would be 12 and 9. My husband beginning his 5th decade as a single father.
My mom didn’t keep journals. I have a few letters she wrote to me but one of my favorite things I have of hers is her 2008 calendar. Kay was very detail-oriented and wrote all of those details down in a paper spiral calendar. I have memorized those last few months of her handwriting. Doctor’s appointments, my birthday, church meetings, christmas parties, thanksgiving plans, phone numbers, reminders, grocery lists. It’s the everyday life of the mom I loved. This is what I was thinking about when I found myself staring at calendars in the fancy stationary store. (yes, I have a neighborhood stationary store) I bought a pink leather one-not a depressing color, and long-lasting. It was over $30. Ridiculous. But I thought of all the things I needed to put in the calendar and how important it would become to my family. I thought it would be a good way to put all the important stuff in one place. That it would make it easier when Eric had to get ready for birthdays or Christmas without me. I kept the notes in the margins at the time they needed to be done…when I started christmas shopping, thinking about birthday presents, weekly grocery lists, school registration, dentist appointments and reminders to make appointments for well visits months in advance, when to register for soccer and chorus and summer activities….I imagined him meeting with my friends, making sense of it all, my Village coming to his side to help with the impossible task of filling in the hole I left.
Now I’m crying into my Free Trade, Honduran, Washed coffee with red currant notes. Did you catch that????? I’m crying. In a cafe. Drinking the coffee of my dreams. In May 2017. I didn’t die! I’ve spent the last week being so surprised. Completely surprised and amazed. We were hoping to buy time with chemo and then a clinical trial. A clinical trial that hasn’t worked for most people is working for me and I can hardly believe it.
I was surprised when I was able to spend a day with my dear friend Katie last week. She’s been by my side from the time I birthed my first baby all the way across the country and now we’re stumbling through teenage years together. We walked, we talked, we were so alive together!
Eric and I went on a Friday hike in Tilden Park. There was climbing, falling in the mud, staring at a stream running through the woods. We were laughing and quiet and thoughtful and ALIVE together.
Two friends from Atlanta came last weekend and we marveled at the redwoods, the rocks on the beach, the beauty of Occidental, CA, and talked and talked. Oh the pain in the stories of these friends but also the Beauty. Praise God we were also all three alive. We made it this far!
All this awareness of being alive has its ups and downs. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised now and then at how healthy I am right now. But it also brings the uncertainty and fear of the future. Cancer is tricky and this type usually finds a way around the treatment. Ugh. That bursts my bubble. There is a difference in how I’m living life now compared to October, 2015, when I bought my pink calendar. That calendar isn’t within arm’s reach anymore. It’s under a stack of books and papers on my desk. I didn’t continue using it because at some point I began focusing on living life more than the plans for when I’m gone. Is that getting closer to “living with” cancer rather than “dying from” cancer? I hope so.