Hey guys, I kinda struggled a bit with this. Chris didn’t publish these for a reason, I don’t know what does reasons were. It was a pleasant surprise for me to find them, I miss her so much and will for the rest of my life. So, I asked myself, self, do I share them or not? I thought about it for a while, what would Chris want? I really don’t know, I know I want her words archived somewhere else besides her computer, I want people to enjoy them and know our story, so here they are for you to enjoy.
The day the sky exploded, I was on my way to jumpstarting a career that had grown a little stale. I’d been practicing law for thirteen years, and had spent the last nine years at the same firm. I did litigation, meaning (in theory) courtroom work. But more on that later. Maybe. I was a partner at my firm. And while I am somewhat of an introvert, I have some pretty natural leadership skills. However, I felt like I was floundering, like my partners failed to see the true value of what I brought to the firm. So I decided I needed to get out and do something in the legal community that wasn’t just about client development, but was about my own personal development as a lawyer. I applied and was accepted for a leadership academy with a bar association aimed at promoting the professional development of women in the legal world. The academy would take place over 3 weekend sessions, the first weekend starting Friday, February 26,
In addition to a career going stale, I was in a relationship that, for me, had become stagnant. The reasons why are many, and not the point of this exercise. I simply mention it to set the stage and tell how my rebirth started–where I was in life, when the bomb exploded, shattering my life into a million fragile pieces. And how I’ve ultimately picked up, shaped, glued some of those pieces together, and added other pieces, to create something new and beautiful and strong. Something that can be held up to the light and admired.
Back to February 26, 2010. For months, I’d been feeling bad. I’d had intense pain in my right rib area, pain that worsened when I inhaled, pain that at times had me almost doubled over. And don’t worry, I kept going to the doctor to find out what was wrong with me. After all, as a litigator, I represented doctors who were sued for malpractice. I was pretty savvy about the medical field. I cross examined expert witness doctors on an almost weekly basis. In fact, at least two doctors I deposed during this period noted the extreme pain I was in and made recommendations. One, unforgettably, suggested the pain was caused by my bra being too tight. In the meantime, the new primary care doctor I’d decided to go to just couldn’t figure it out. To her credit, she ordered a CT scan and it apparently didn’t show anything. She referred me to a pain specialist, and I got upset that the decision was being made to just manage my pain without finding out WHY I had pain.
As that was happening, I noticed a tiny dimple in the side of my right breast. I couldn’t remember if it had been there before. I knew I felt a lump around there, but it seemed to me that lump had been there and that it was just part of my kind of lumpy breast tissue–it didn’t feel like what I’d been told to expect in a breast tumor lump. It felt big.
I decided to see my OB-GYN and when I called, they wanted me seen right away. I saw her nurse practitioner and she immediately ordered a diagnostic mammogram for both breasts (because I was turning 40 that year and needed to start having annual mammograms anyway) and as an added precaution, she ordered an ultrasound of the area where the dimple was (which was, of course, near where the pain had started).
It happened that the tests were scheduled for 7 a.m. on February 26, the first day of the first weekend of the leadership academy. My plan was to go for the test, go home, pack and head to Callaway Gardens for the academy. I had it in my head that it would be a relief to be away for the weekend, to be with a group of women who would hopefully become my friends, to start creating a new life. (Ironically, I did create a new life, just not quite what I imagined then, or how I imagined it–but oh so much better for me).
I went for the tests. Because they were ordered as “diagnostic,” the facility provided the results right away. First the mammogram–pure torture (and not my first one either, I’d had one a couple of years prior in order to establish a baseline. I was always pretty proactive about taking care of myself.). Mammogram, check. No problems. Next the ultrasound.
If you’ve never had an ultrasound (or if you have), you should know. They’re really easy. Just gliding a little wand over the skin, with some gel between the wand and your skin. In fact, a student did my ultrasound. And the student saw something. I saw her motioning to her proctor, felt her going over an area. And then they excused themselves to go get the doctor. Meanwhile, I’m lying on the table, in the darkened room, breast exposed, goo chilling my skin.
In walks the doctor–lo and behold, I know him. In fact, he’s the nephew of the senior named partner at my firm. We’ve met at social functions. And not only do I know him, he knows me. So we chitchat about that for a minute. While I’m still lying on the table, breast exposed, covered in goo. Then he picks up the wand, starts rolling it over my skin and describing the cyst he sees. He knows now that I’m pretty savvy about medical stuff, so he starts using very medical jargon. And as he keeps saying cyst, I finally have to clarify–well cyst, that’s usually benign, right? WRONG. “You most likely have breast cancer.” See that brilliant, flashing light? That’s the sky exploding, a world coming to an end.
I can’t speak for everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer, or ever will be, but I can tell you that in that moment, my life exploded. My life became, irrevocably, divided into two halves. Before Cancer, After Cancer. BC, AC. Nothing can ever undo that moment. And that wasn’t even the worst moment of the initial diagnosis and treatment phase. But in my mind, it is THE moment. The rest of it has faded some with time. But that moment remains the line of demarcation.
I technically didn’t get confirmation of the diagnosis (via needle biopsy) until March 3–and it was a little over a month later before I found out that it was actually metastatic/Stage IV/incurable breast cancer. That news was hard to hear, and it changed everything just as much, if not more. Yet it is still that initial statement that sticks with me. It’s the moment that I mark as my anniversary, my birthday. Outwardly, things didn’t change much at first, but it’s what kicked off a cascade of changes. It’s the beginning of my story of now, of how I went from litigator billing 2000+ hours a year, trying to figure out how to push my career in a new direction and unhappily married, to being a full-time part-time mom, happily married and living with a catastrophic illness in a healthy way.
I left that ultrasound and went home. My (now) ex was there and jokingly said, “so what is it, cancer?” I’m pretty sure if he remembers that, he feels bad. He shouldn’t. We didn’t know. But yes, it was. I packed my bag, headed to the conference and spent the weekend trying to pretend everything was fine. The leadership academy was spread over three weekends–each weekend turned out to correspond with a significant event in my diagnosis timeline. The first weekend–what I’ve just described. I was there, trying to lay out a 5 year plan for pushing my career forward, for focusing on one thing I really wanted to accomplish, and all I could really think about what was this news I’d just gotten. I knew that thing, cancer, was going to be the focus for me, that the rest of it would take a backseat. The next session was in Savannah, and I was just finding out that the cancer had spread to a rib already (and was therefore, metastatic). And, to close the circle, the final session was in Atlanta and was the day I started chemotherapy (so I didn’t make it to the session, but the organizers graciously allowed me to “graduate” anyway).
I didn’t know that first weekend that it would ultimately be a means of leaving the high stress environment, of finding my way to my dream life–which was, after all, what I was really hoping to accomplish with attending the academy. You see, that diagnosis was the end. But it was also the beginning. I just didn’t know it at the time. I have previously said, and I still hold it to be true, that time is all about perspective. It’s a shooting star–when you’re here, on Earth, watching that star fly across the sky, it seems so fleeting. But what you’re really seeing is an event that was literally thousands of years in the making, a star exploding, and the time and distance that event travels to be visible to you. And that’s what that moment on February 26 is for me now–a shooting star, something on which to make a wish and have it granted, something that is beautiful to behold, even when you know what it actually represents.
Cancer and cancer treatment are ultimately a part of my story–but they’re not the only parts. I want to tell you about what it’s like to live those things, but also about what it’s like to live. I know, I know. You’re living. But maybe you’re like me, things are quite right and you’re looking for some ideas. But before we get there:
One of the things I have consistently wished for (wish unanswered, by the way) since being diagnosed is that no one else ever have to go through that experience. If it were in my power to end all cancer, that’s what I’d do. But it doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s power to do that. All around me, people are constantly being diagnosed with cancer. And dying from cancer. And suffering through cancer treatment. And let me just say it–no matter how much grace and strength and determination a cancer patient shows–it really sucks. And anyone with cancer will tell you that there’s just no other, better way to put it. It sucks, people. SUCKS. You think someone’s bad attitude sucks? Try having poison infused into your arm, slowly, to kill off cells your very own body is generating to kill you. Wrap your head around that and then tell me about how you don’t like your haircut.
Not to get on a soapbox, but I think people with cancer try too hard to be brave and graceful and suck it up. I know I did, and do. But I don’t mind going on record here to say, it really sucks, do everything within reason to try to avoid cancer, it’s not glamorous. So put on your sunscreen, put down your cigarette, tell the people you co-habitate with to put down the cigarettes, get out and exercise every day and be conscious about what you put in your body. I get it, I still like to eat potato chips and get a light tan. And I always took pretty good care of myself and lookie–I got cancer anyway. True. Sometimes shit just happens. But that doesn’t mean you just don’t take care of yourself, on the off-chance you’ll get cancer anyway. I firmly believe the reason I’m still alive, writing this chronicle, is because I always did, and still do, take reasonable care of myself. Even when I was going through the most aggressive treatment, I exercised. I ate right. I gave my body a fighting chance. Always give yourself a chance and, if the crap still hits the fan, you’re at least a leg up on it. You haven’t given cancer a weak host to kill, you’ve girded yourself, in advance, for the literal fight for your life.
Rage Against the Machine—not posted
This is a post about cancer. And about anger. And if you don’t want to hear about it, stop reading now. I’m hoping that as I write this, I’ll come to a positive frame of mind, but I’m offering no guarantees on that. It’s hard to even organize my thoughts on what I’m most enraged about.
At the top of the list, but only because of timing, is that I am a week out from my doctor ordering a new dosage of a medication that I’ve been taking for five months and I don’t have the medication yet. And let me say at the outset that it’s not because of Obamacare. I don’t intend to get political, but the issue with getting my medication really does have to do with a business and its interest in making money over its interest in making sure I receive what my doctor orders in a timely manner. That particular issue has been a problem with medicine since health insurance has been around. On the one hand, I’m thankful for my insurance, on the other hand, it’s still a big ole money making machine where dollars come before sense every single time. (And that’s a deliberate homonym choice.) And really, in this instance, it’s more the inefficiency of the pharmacy (that the insurance company has dictated I use).
There are lots of details to this story, but the upshot is that I started taking the 100 mg, instead of waiting on the 75 mg. Good thing, too, because otherwise I’d be on an unscheduled three week break from what is, in essence, my chemotherapy. So there’s that.
I have a bubbling under the surface anger about the things that just having cancer has taken away from me—the ability to work in my career, the ability to take a walk with the dog without being winded, I could go on and on. I was 39 when this “journey” started, so a lot of the things I experience now at 45 people say, “well you’re just getting older.” Yes, Yes I am just getting older (and I’m grateful that I am) but dammit. Some of this stuff even people at the great age of 45 don’t have to deal with yet. And even if they do, WTF??!!! Acknowledge that it’s just a shitty situation I am in rather than diminish my concern about it. Jeez.
And then there’s the big rage, the one I finally acknowledged today. I am mad as fucking hell about my body betraying me in this way. I took relatively good care of it. Certainly better care than many people I’ve known . . . and yet it delivered this crushing blow to me. It betrayed me, it took away my ability to live a long life, to choose to have children, to feel all those feel good feelings when you’re with someone you love and are attracted to . . . it’s a goddamn struggle every damn day.
And yet I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for what I have.
November 15, 2016 (not posted)
As Thanksgiving and my birthday rapidly approach, I pause to reflect on what has been, what is and what will be . . . as most people do. Last Friday evening I sat with my step-son Vincent at our kitchen table and talked about my trip to London with him. I couldn’t believe, when he asked, that it was ten years ago that I went. As with so many things, in some ways it seems like it was so recent and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago.
Over the course of my adult life, I’ve had the privilege of doing many things and what I find as I reflect is that it’s been the experiences that have mattered the most to me, even the experienced tinged with upset or almost wholly eclipsed by upset, have been experiences that molded me. And I note a trend in my life, to give experiences as presents . . . in fact my first present to Vincent for his seventh birthday was a trip to the Lego Discovery Center with Ryan (which they sweetly insisted that I accompany them and I was more than happy to do so). For Ryan’s fortieth birthday, we gave him a trip to Florida to see the Yankees play two spring training games. It can’t always be done, but it’s a nice thing to try.
But aside from experiences as gifts, there are just experiences in general. As an introvert, it can be hard to motivate me to leave our house. I have to remind myself to choose experience, to choose to get out and live in the moment and see where it takes me.
Moms not posted
I think and write a lot about Vincent, my stepson. While I don’t really think of him in those terms, I think of him as “our son,” I always remember and honor that he has a mom. And I’m thankful to her and for her. I grew up in the “blended” family setting and perhaps that gives me a different view on what step-parents and step-children are. Definitely it has made me super-aware and appreciative that while we have these titles, we really are just family. And part of Vincent’s family is his mom, and her (their) family.
Divorce is never easy, and the reasons for divorce are usually multiple. When people go through divorce, there’s hurt and frustration and anger. There are days when you wonder, “how will I get through this?” The reality is that you get through it just like anything else that’s difficult in life, one step at a time. When kids are involved, there’s an additional level of . . . well, let’s just stay “stuff” . . . to get through and, ideally, both “sides” are motivated to get through it with as little damage as possible to the kids.
I am grateful that Vincent’s parents have consistently been motivated in this way. More than that, I am grateful to them for the person Vincent is and for allowing me the honor of sharing in his life and his upbringing. But for them, and their grace, I wouldn’t have what has been one of my greatest joys. So every day I say a prayer of thankfulness for Olga, as well as for Ryan and Vincent.
I think of us, working together as a team, to bring Vincent into adulthood, to teach him respect, honor, independence, gratefulness and empathy. We strive to fill his life with humor and education and give him the tools to one day enter the adventure of parenting himself.
And as I think of these things, I think of my own mom, her strength and courage, humor and beauty. I think of all the lessons she instilled in me by example, and I am encouraged. I didn’t know I was learning so much, but apparently I did. So when Vincent (age 10) asked Ryan and me the other day if we could give him some pointers on how to be a good parent, I silently laughed to myself and thought, “why, that’s what we are (all) doing every day, you just don’t know it yet.” I think I just chuckled and said that we’d write some stuff down later on, when he’s a little closer to being a parent . . . knowing those lessons are already being instilled—in both of his homes.
Moms come in all shapes and sizes, but they also get to being “a mom” in different ways. It’s not a job for everyone—and that’s okay. Being an aunt, a sister, a friend, a cousin—these are all roles with intrinsic value.
October 30, 2016 not published.
I always think I want to write something that has nothing to do with cancer, and yet cancer has so thoroughly touched every part of my life that it’s really quite impossible. I look at my husband, Ryan and my stepson, Vincent, and even our dog, Honey the Dog, and I realize how much it has touched them, too. I would give almost anything for this to not be the case.
When I met Ryan, I was a pretty badly battered and bruised person. I didn’t think I was, I thought I was strong and healing and ready to create a life. And I was those things, but I had so much hurt underneath. With Ryan by my side, and with Vincent sending unconditional love my way without even knowing all the hurt and pain that was inside, I’ve grown, I’ve become stronger and I’ve found my voice. Yet these discoveries are overshadowed by the shadow of what is to come. For all the healing they have brought to me, I would give anything to never inflict any pain on them.
October 25, 2016 (not posted)
One of the things that has bothered me a lot since I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer is that one of the first questions I get asked is whether I have kids. To me, the question implied that my life intrinsically had less value than that of someone with kids. When Cheree died, that was one of the first questions people would ask me, too. Somehow, it’s all worse, in people’s minds, if the person who is dying or has died has/had kids. I’ve asked myself more times than I can count why it is this way, and I’ve pontificated on different reasons. To be 100% honest, too, my feelings about this question changed to a certain extent when I became a step-mom, too. Perhaps I “get it” now more than I used to, or perhaps I just gained a different perspective. Yet, I am still in that middle ground place where people are relieved that it’s “just” a step-kid that I have, not my own child.
The thing is, I always wanted my own child. And I feel incredibly blessed to have a step-son upon whom I can bestow unlimited, unfiltered love. Ten years ago, I was pregnant and I had a miscarriage, and I have grieved over that from the time that it happened. I will always grieve. But, as with any grief, life continues on day by day and we learn to live with grief, to incorporate it into our lives and find a new way to live and love and celebrate, all the while feeling that grief. Much of who I am today was shaped by that loss ten years ago.
After my initial treatments for cancer, when it seemed perhaps I could have a child after all, I made a lot of changes to give myself that option. But when I had my first progression, I had to have a hysterectomy, shutting that door forever. (And adoption simply isn’t an option in my situation). Fortunately, by that time I had Ryan and Vincent in my life and the emotional pain of that decision making process was mitigated by the powerful amount of love that we share. At the time, Vincent was sad that he wouldn’t have a baby sibling, but we all shouldered the grief together and accepted that our lives would be us and Honey the Dog. Yet, sometimes I still grieve. The phrase “you can’t miss what you never had” was said to me this weekend and I know, without a doubt, this simply isn’t true.
So here I am, with my step-son, a person I love more than life itself. I would step in front of any bus to save him, I would fight any monster to protect him, I would take any medicine to be here one more day with him. In that way, yes, I’m a mom, something I always wanted to be. And, I admit it, I take comfort in knowing that when I’m gone, he’ll still have his mom and his dad. As bereft as I know he’ll feel, he will still have those arms to hold him and hug him and comfort him and guide him through the grief. So I get, now, that the question that people ask isn’t about my intrinsic value or self-worth, but is about the loss and grieving of the child. I always got that, actually, but it was tied up in the defensiveness that was there over not having a child.
When we ask those questions, though, we have to consider what impact it has on all people. I wake up every day with a big, gaping hole where my friend Cheree was. I know she’s with me in spirit, I know I’ll see her face again someday, but today, this day . . . you get the point. And I think of her husband Scott, and her step-daughter Crystal. Crystal’s grief is profound, as is the grief of all of Cheree’s family, including friends who became family. We can’t compete over who is grieving more, that’s not productive. We’re all grieving, the loss is almost unbearable, and I don’t believe it would be worse if she’d had a child.
However, there’s this extra layer now in dealing with cancer of how to talk to Vincent about it. How we talk now that he is 11 is different from how we would talk to him about it when he was 7, obviously. For me, the key is age appropriate conversations. What is he emotionally mature enough to handle “right now.” The answer is different for everyone for other reasons, too. I’ve lived with terminal cancer for 6.5 years, most people don’t get that long, so hard conversations happen when they have to happen, sometimes, rather than when kids are “ready” for them to happen. Vincent’s a mature kid, but I don’t talk to him about dying, because we aren’t there yet. He knows I have cancer, he has seen some of the treatments, he knows I can’t function at the level of even a year ago. We talk about the science of the treatment, the mechanical operation of the port and the drainage catheter, we talk about the science of the cancer of itself. But it’s hard enough to talk to other adults about the “dying” part, let alone to tell your child that the road only goes one way on this.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s right for my siblings to tell their kids about my cancer, or about any other family member’s cancer. I do think the best thing to do with kids about anything is to have an open line of communication, to know wait for the child to bring up a concern. Ask open questions, check in on what they’re doing, how they’re doing, what’s on their mind. If they make a statement about something, follow it up with a question, “oh, why is that?” for example. I’ve found that if I ask Vincent one or two specific questions (“how did it go with teacher x today”), he’ll start talking about his day at school more than he will if I ask him “how was school?”
MAY 17, 2016 on death (not posted)
I recently started reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Not because I think I’m about to die, but because I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we are so afraid of death that we act like it will never happen. The book is a practical discussion of life and death, of meditation and mindfulness. It’s helped me frame some thoughts I’ve been having on these subjects.
The conversation about death is hard for me, in particular, because of the years that I spent married to someone who talked about death all the time—because of depression, but also as a means of manipulation. My ex-husband knew I had a deep fear of abandonment, and he used that. Almost daily, he would talk of killing himself. Sometimes this was out of his own depression and dissatisfaction with his life, but I came to realize over time that it was also, and frequently, a subtle threat—if you don’t behave the way I need you to behave, I will abandon you in the most permanent of ways. As you may imagine, living for so long with this type of behavior has had some lasting consequences for me, but I’ve been successfully working through those issues.
Because of cancer, I am in a situation that necessarily forces me to contemplate the end of my life. And for a long time, this would make me cry. And, for a long time, I felt like I couldn’t talk about this with those closest to me, my dearest Ryan and my family, for a number of reasons. If I talk about it, they may think I think I’m about to die. If I talk about it, it will be upsetting to them. If I talk about it, they’ll pull away from me. If I talk about it, they’ll start imagining life without me (as I did, the more my ex talked about death) and they’ll realize they could just go ahead and move on. I’ve also often thought over the last six years, since my diagnosis, that those people who have remained friends with me, despite the diagnosis, are brave friends. They’re choosing to stay friends with someone who, inevitably, will die on them.
But think about that last sentence. In truth, we’re all going to die at some point. It’s the nature of life and living—at some point, we all die. For the longest time, after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, when people would say, “well I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, we never know,” I would get angry. Because, well, I have a terminal illness and you don’t. Don’t be so flippant about the fact that I have this terrible illness, damnit!! I’ve come to realize something, though. And that is, in fact, the truth of that statement about the bus—none of us ever know the hour and place of the end of life, only that the end is inevitable. Why did I stop being mad about that statement? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve now lived with the “terminal” diagnosis for six years. Maybe it’s because I started thinking in a more positive way about death. Maybe—maybe a lot of reason, I don’t know. I’ve seen women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) have long, lingering deaths, and I’ve seen the opposite—women (some men, I know) who are vibrant and living life to its fullest one week and suddenly gone the next week. There’s no guarantee, even, of how death will arrive within the context of my particular diagnosis, in other words.
I’ve worked on the practical steps of preparing for death, getting a will, saving money (in lieu of life insurance, which you can’t buy after a stage 4 diagnosis), letting go of a lot of tangible items that other people shouldn’t have to sort through after I’m gone. My ex-husband’s actual suicide last year (long after the divorce and my own happy remarriage) really showed me how ridiculous the collection of stuff can be. I have my mementos of trips we’ve taken, of happy things Ryan and I have done, but I’ve really decluttered a lot (not that I’ve ever been a big clutterer anyway). These are the practical things we deal with when we really start to take in that our bodies are impermanent. It’s not that our lives are ephemeral, it’s that the body can’t last. Our lives, how we’ve touched people, that lasts long after the fragile being is gone.
Which brings me to the nature of life, in connection with death. If I think about the fact that I may not wake up tomorrow, what do I want to know when I go to sleep? I want to know that I showed people I love them, that I’ve been honest with them, that I haven’t let ill feelings linger in my heart and mind, but that instead I’ve voiced the issue and resolved it. That I’m at peace with how and where I stand in my relationships, in other words, but above all that there is no doubt in the minds of those I love, that I love them. That I hugged every chance I could, that I acted with kindness and thoughtfulness, and that I remained true to my heart. When I go to sleep at night knowing those things to be true, I find I have no trouble sleeping. And I’ve also found I have less fear about dying.
The other thing I’ve discovered is that I really don’t see death as the end. I don’t know what comes next, but I do believe in my spirit separate from my body. I know when I’m gone, it will bring sadness for my loved ones, but I also know they’ll be okay. They’ll always have me in their hearts, but their lives will continue without my physical presence—and it should. That is the nature of life. Without intending to sound boastful, I know that I’ve enriched their lives, just as they’ve enriched mine. We are forever connected spiritually, even after the body has gone. This comforts me, and hopefully comforts us all. Death is not the end of my being, in other words, but the end of my body.
We shouldn’t fear the conversation about death. By the same token, it shouldn’t dominate the conversation in an unhealthy way. When I had my first progression of disease, back in 2013, I used to think to myself, “please let me live to see Vincent graduate from high school,” and I would immediately start crying thinking about this. I couldn’t accept it, I couldn’t talk about it, though my fear of death would pop out in conversation in what I now see as an unhealthy way. Now, three years later, I no longer have that thought. I stay, instead, in the moment. I enjoy the time we have together now. I go with the assumption that I’ll be around for the milestones of our lives, but I also know, with certainty, that I give my love freely every day. That we create our lives every day in a way that, no matter what tomorrow brings, we’ve lived fully today.
It’s hard to bring up death in a non scary way. And a little ironic that I’m writing this today, given that I’m notoriously bad about saying “I’m okay,” when I feel really bad. I’ve been working on this, but the truth is that my knee-jerk response is to try to spare people worrying about me. In reality, if I think about it, I know that it’s impossible to control how other people feel and that it’s a disservice to me and to those who care about me to hide the truth. (though sometimes the million questions of how are you feeling now do spur me to say I’m okay when I’m not, so sometimes it’s just gonna happen).
For once, I’m not scared of what my scans tomorrow will show. I don’t have the scanxiety that has accompanied me since February 26, 2010, when I was so confident the scans wouldn’t show anything . . . I know something is wrong with me today, not cancer, and the scan tomorrow will confirm it and get us moving towards treatment. I’ve been in pain and had increasing swelling in my abdomen, which I’m fairly confident is a condition called ascites (uh-SCI-tees)—it happens when you have tumors in your liver, your liver leaks fluid that accumulates in the abdomen, causing swelling and discomfort. My last scans had a question of ascites, so this isn’t just fear-based thinking for me. The ascites can be drained via needle aspiration, and I’m ready to get to that procedure. I know I could be wrong, maybe it’s not ascites, maybe it’s all in my head. But I don’t think so.
Sometimes it’s hard to say these things out loud. I know it’s hard for my husband and for my family to hear me talk about death. And I don’t want that conversation to be anything like what I endured for so many years—so I’m reluctant to bring it up. But I do want to find a healthy, “normal” way to have a conversation. There are some practical considerations for the potential of the drawn out dying (hospice care, in home or at a facility, for example), but that’s a different conversation. That’s probably the scary conversation. For a while, I thought it was the conversation I needed to have, but it’s not really. This is the conversation I need to have—even just with myself. I’m satisfied with my life, I’m content. I don’t fear dying, and I will go on living in each moment.
And there you have it, till next time………