A year ago, right around this time, I wrote a post entitled “Ten years out.” I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer on January 15, 2008, and the idea was to do a series of posts throughout the year contrasting my cancer year a decade ago with my life now. My hope – and oh, how I cringe to think of it now! – was that these “then and now” posts would, with pluck and insight and humor and all that good stuff, offer encouragement to other women facing cancer diagnosis and treatment.
I made it through two posts before life reminded me that even when it goes on, it doesn’t always go on smoothly. My father died. I broke my arm and got depressed. I dropped the series – not consciously, but through a series of small omissions and delays and posts begun but never finished that eventually led to a big “fuck this, just forget about it.”
But I couldn’t, quite. I’ve never liked to leave things hanging: hence this post.
After I finished my 8 chemo sessions (4 dose-dense cycles of Adriamycin/Cytoxan followed by 4 cycles of Taxotere, aka Taxoterrible, aka blechhhhh) back in August of 2008, I gratefully accepted the congratulatory certificate prepared by the Hematology/Oncology staff at Henry Ford Hospital. I didn’t even raise a cynical eyebrow at the embellishments: a meaningless gold seal, suns and smiley faces drawn with magic marker, a “best ever” sticker better suited for a 5th grader’s homework. Yes, it was infantilizing, but it was also sweet. I appreciated it. And though they were kind and wonderful, I really, really, really hoped I’d never see any of the nurses again.
I notice, now, that one of them wrote, in the bottom right corner, “Stay Healthy Forever.”
I’ll pause here to let the magnificent absurdity of that sink in.
. . .
. . .
. . .
Eleven years in to my post-diagnosis life, I have not, of course, managed to stay healthy forever. I’m cancer-free, as far as I know, but I’m confronting the same limits as anyone else in their late 50s (and, very possibly, some additional ones stemming from my cancer treatments – or maybe not, because, post-cancer, you never really now). I know that I will confront even more limits in the years to come. I know that worrying about age is a privilege not given to everyone, and so I feel ungrateful for whining, and then pissed off for being made (by whom? myself, of course) to feel ungrateful.
If I were to sum it all up, I’d have to say that cancer has made me a bit creakier and probably a bit crankier, but no wiser.
So fuck it: this year, eleven years in, I plan to rededicate this blog to all things non-cancer. Look for more on food, on oddball sights around Brooklyn, on running (apologies to my birding followers), and on birds (apologies to my running followers). I have a few Brooklyn posts in progress, but first – look for dispatches from the road as Eric and I head for Mexico City.