Last year at this time I was 18 hours away from getting the phone call that changed my life. I had been shopping with my mom and sister-in-law, and had just pulled up in front of my house when my phone rang. When the nurse said she was putting the doctor on the line, I knew. I grabbed Joel and we pressed our faces together as we listened to the doctor say, “I’m so sorry to tell you this Melissa, but the biopsy revealed cancer.”
I remember saying, “no, no, no” as I sobbed into the phone. I could feel Joel’s tears on my face.
Even just typing this makes my stomach hurt. I can still remember exactly what that felt like.
But here I am. 364.5 days later. I’m here. And I’m okay. I made it.
You guys already know from reading my blog what this journey has been like for me. You know about physical and emotional tar that I had to trudge through. You’ve felt pangs of sadness with me as I explained in detail about the weight and misery of chemo. You’ve clenched your fists with me as I wrote about dipping white blood cells, and the frustration of waiting rooms, paper gowns, and incorrect test results. You’ve listened as I said goodbye to the breasts that bounced with me through life, and fed and nourished my boys. You cried with me. And prayed for me.
And I made it.
So now, I want you to smile with me. I want you to know that I am singing again as I wash the dishes. I want you to know that I pick up my boys and swing them in circles, and chase them at the park, and splash with them at the pool. I want you know that I have to use a brush, and have enough eyelashes for mascara, and that I have full range of motion in my arms (thanks to my amazing physical therapist!). I want you to know that I go to Spin classes, swim laps, run up hills, walk for miles, dance at weddings, soar down water slides, and am contemplating signing up for my first triathlon in the spring.
I want you to know that in suffering there is this rawness, this vulnerability, that feels a little like hope. If cancer sunk me, it also gave me the eyes to look up from the bottom of the ocean and notice the way that light bends. The way it splits into star shapes, and tunnels, the way it can always find you. If you are ready.
I want you to know that I worry less. I don’t know how this is possible, but for now it is true. I always thought that if tragedy walked through my door, it would harden me, make me believe less in the magic that has always caught my eyes. But instead it has confirmed my belief that there is a deep current of good that flows within this life. It is so strong that it will carry you forward when all you want to do is give up.
I want you to know that I still face menopause, and migraines, and paper gowns, waiting rooms, and oncologists. But my arms are open. My fists are unclenched. My face is tilted to the sun.
Thursday is Thanksgiving. And I want you to know that I am grateful.
I want you to know that the arms in this picture never let go of me. Not when I was screaming, not when I was sobbing, not when I was a fraction of the women he married. He never let me go.
I want you to know that the women in this picture is 364.5 days different than she was last year. She still surprises me. You can see it in her eyes.
I am here.