Don’t Look Back


pathIt was startling to find, and difficult to confirm. Even though my doctor told me the imagery was clear, I knew that there was something amiss. To appease me, she sent me on for an ultrasound. I had to wait four more weeks to get the appointment, scheduled for late November. And it was there that the radiologist decided to err on the side of caution, taking six core samples to be sent off for biopsy.

Prepping my dinner table the eve before Thanksgiving, I took a call from the hospital. Pathology results were in.

It was a Thanksgiving of blessings.  Gazing at the faces of my many loved ones, I formulated a plan: take whatever steps necessary to steal my good health back.

I had surgery two weeks later, expecting eight full weeks of radiation to follow.  But pathology from surgery showed more problems…the margins weren’t clean. Malignant cells had been left behind.

Back to surgery one more time, this one scheduled for Christmas Eve.  My surgeon felt it was important to move quickly, so the holiday took a back seat.

Christmas Day was a day of blessings. Looking at the faces of my children gathered around me, I saw the road ahead with acute clarity. I expedited the healing process.

New Years Eve I took at call in the last hours of daylight.  My surgeon identified herself by her first name.  It took me a moment to understand, but then in an instant, I got it.

My husband wasn’t yet home from work, so I reached him on his cell phone to suggest we meet up at a local spot for a festive drink together.  Let’s ring in the New Year a few hours early, I suggested.

The pub was packed with revelers, all in good cheer as they sat at tiny tables sharing appetizers and raucous laughter together.  Spotting a quiet corner, I grabbed a newly vacated table for two and waited for his arrival.

His eyes lit up when he spotted me.  We spent two hours talking about a thousand things, as we’d always done throughout our twenty-five years of partnership together. I waited until he was finishing his third glass of wine before I broke the news.

With an incredulous stare, he struggled to retain emotional control. I reached across the small table and held his hands firmly in my own. Listen to me, I said.  I’ll get through this.  It’s doable…it’s just body parts. I can live without body parts.

Sometimes the most unexpected journeys teach you the most profound lessons.  For example, if you simply keep your eye on the horizon, you can travel just one day at a time. By doing so, statistics on travel time become irrelevant because the only timeline you’re on is the one you choose to manage.

The horizon is always there…just waiting for you to arrive, no matter how long the journey. Don’t look back and most certainly don’t look down.



Here On Earth With You

Picture 2This evening I was cruising around on WordPress, reading blog posts by other writers. I stumbled across a post that especially caught my attention, titled The Cancer Book. It’s written by the wife of a cancer patient.  Her personal anger and emotional fragility are all too familiar to me.

I’ve walked that same path alongside loved ones battling cancer.  And, I found myself providing comfort to my husband as he walked that path beside me while I myself battled cancer.

That was almost 10 years ago now…but the journey is as fresh in my mind as if it were just yesterday.  After reading her post, which detailed the anguish of having to purchase a notebook to help her keep all cancer-related paperwork together, I decided to leave a reader comment.  I told her what I tell everyone who asks about my own cancer journey;  keep your eye on the horizon and take it just one day at a time.  Don’t stress over the weeks/months ahead.  Just keep your eye on the horizon, stay steady and take it day by day. Only one day at a time.

Here On Earth With You is a poem I wrote early in my cancer journey, when it became clear that the best chance I had for survival  was not going to be the 8 weeks of radiation I’d been told would follow the initial surgery.  In my wildest dreams, I’d never expected to face the kind of battle strategics that cancer served up.  Too many trips to surgery in a matter of weeks, and then the final surgery was a drastic one. It left me with no choice but to be reminded, on a daily basis, that my life was in exchange for body parts.

For me, it’s been easy to keep it in perspective.  It’s just body parts.  Living isn’t about body parts, it’s about HEALTH.

I hope the blogger who wrote about her cancer book can soon write about the joy of celebrating with her husband over his renewed health.  Life is so unpredictable, but here on earth is where I hope he will remain for decades to come.

The sunshine’s warmth upon my skin on a brisk autumn day

brings good feelings to my heart,

for I know it’s nature’s way.

The sobering news of malignancy brings clarity to mind

for appreciation of battle,

of facing moments in time.

The smile on my children’s faces, no matter what their age

and the way their warmth envelops me

in every single stage.

Their laughter and their triumphs, their special little ways

that make me feel so blessed

with each passing day.

The joys I share in marriage, our love endures the years.

The support we share for each other,

no matter what the fears.

The way he looks so pensive, lost in thoughts of distress–

The way I reassure him,

our tomorrows will be the best.

I step up, front and center, to see how the facts unfold

and I face what lies before me,

choosing what the future holds.

Decisions hard to fathom, in order to pursue

a lifetime of more love,

here on earth with you.

Picture 3Blessings to all who have their own cancer journeys to endure.