It’s Tuesday night before a Herceptin infusion. Even though I am done with chemotherapy, I still receive a targeted drug for my specific form of cancer every three weeks through my port.
Just when I think I am starting to move past this cancer thing, I have to go back to the cancer center and sit in a room of reminders. I just told a friend who was recently diagnosed and was getting ready to have her port placed, that one of the stupid things people say to you when you have cancer is, “oh you will just love your port.” Nope. While it does make life easier, I still view it as an invader in my body. As a foreign object. As a reminder of cancer. I would like to claw mine out, and skip my appointments.
And then even as I type those grumpy words, I am overcome with gratitude. I am grateful that my list of complaints has dwindled, and that the spaces in between my “reminders” are growing deeper, and more joyful. Still, I hate the Tuesday nights before infusion day.
I realize that I haven’t been blogging much. I am not sure why. Sometimes I think it is because I am feeling so much better, and that I am busy, and happy, and playing with my kids again. Sometimes I think it is because I have so much to say, and I’m not sure how to say it. I sit down to write and all the words feel jumbled.
I’ve been wanting to write about June 13th (Race for the Cure day) – for awhile now, but I haven’t really sorted out what I want to say. But I am tired of waiting for the right words, so I will just write words and see what happens.
June 13th was exactly one month after my double mastectomy. I remember wondering during the worst moments of pain and sadness after the surgery if I would even be able to participate in the race. Joel would hold my hand as I hobbled around the block grimacing in pain, and I would cringe at the thought of 3 miles. It seemed impossible. But I needed that race day. It was one of my finish lines. It was something I had to do.
That morning when I was getting dressed, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror. I was wearing a pink shirt. A pink survivor shirt. All the years I participated in the race, I was in the white participant shirt. I was running by the women in pink, saying silent prayers for them. Looking at them in awe, thinking “how are you surviving this? ” And now here I am wearing a pink shirt, too.
Life gets you like that. Doesn’t it? One moment you are drinking wine with your friends laughing about how breastfeeding turns your boobs from firm grapefruits into saggy sunny side up eggs, and the next moment you are shaving your head and watching chemo drip into your veins. One year you are running the race in a white shirt, the next you are walking slowly in pink.
But I have to tell you– something about that day made me glow from the inside out. Maybe you can see it in the pictures. I was joyful. I was proud. Proud of myself that I had made it this far without giving up hope. Proud of my friends and family for creating such a tight cocoon of love around me. Proud of the other women in pink. Proud of the doctors who have dedicated their lives to finding a cure. Proud of my kids for never losing their sparkle. And proud of my husband for never letting me forget what I was fighting for.
In some ways it seemed like an end. But it more ways — it was a beginning.
I’ve gotten good at just putting one foot in front of the next. I’ve been practicing. I try to only see what is right in front of me.
I’m working at filling the spaces between infusions with life and laughter, instead of worry, and dread. And it’s working. I’m living, and laughing, and spending a bunch of time feeling grateful.
I’ve been chasing my kids down the street again. And picking them up. And racing them in the pool. And jumping waves with them in the ocean. And staying up late enough to read them bedtime stories. The things I missed so dearly when I was weighed down with chemo, are finding their way back to me. And they feel sweeter than before. More precious.
The thing about the pink shirts is that I will get one every year I participate. You are a survivor for as long as you are alive. No more white shirts for me on race day. While I never got into all the pink paraphernalia that is associated with breast cancer (green was more my thing), I do believe I rocked that pink survivor shirt.