Monday, July 21, 2014

Birthdays in Cancerland

Tomorrow is my 48th birthday. Hard to believe, really, as I feel much younger. I was 14 when my mom was this age and I thought she was ancient and out of touch (shhh... don't tell her I said that!) Now I know that I was the one who was out of touch as a surly teen. Times sure change.

I realized this morning that it's not going to be my 48th birthday, though technically it is. It's actually my Zero birthday, as in being reborn again. From now on, my birthday will be an invisible  mark on a timeline for each year that I live without cancer. So, next year, I'll be one. I like that way better than 49!

The time after treatment can be a real roller coaster for many survivors. I'm "lucky" to still be in the middle of it all - head down doing what's expected. Since I'll be receiving the targeted HER-2 miracle drug Herceptin well into the second half of next year, it's very likely that I will turn "1" while still in treatment. There's something settling about that, at least I think so.

It's amazing how perspective shifts. When I was first diagnosed in May, I woke up every day (after I finally was able to sleep again) and for a split second I had a normal experience. You know, stretching and yawning and enjoying the birds and sunshine outside the window. Then, BAM "I've got cancer. I've got cancer. I've got cancer." It was like a curtain closing in around me, suffocating me. I'd go through the rest of my day pretending to be upbeat, hopeful, and ready to fight. That's what people wanted to hear. That's what my kids needed to hear. At night, I would lie in the dark asking for someone, somewhere to please not let me die. To please throw me some sort of bone. I was bargaining with the cancer gods and hoping they were merciful.

Once I was set up with a treatment plan, the curtain lifted a bit. I found out I wasn't going to die (well, at least not for now) and that there were powerful drugs, surgery, and radiation that could hopefully put this in my rearview mirror. The catch of course was that I was going to feel worse than I had ever felt. So, I started waking up thinking "I'm so scared. I'm so scared. I'm so scared." Turns out, so far anyway, it isn't too difficult.

Now, just a mere 8 weeks later,  I wake up, and think, "I've got cancer and I've got a plan. It's time to get up, and move on, and live". And so, I do.

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