I was recently diagnosed with stage iv triple negative breast cancer. This wasn’t my first time with it – three years ago, I received my initial diagnosis of stage 3 of the same disease. Once I finished treatments – mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation – I was told I was “cured.” I thought I was done.
Not so. In 2018 I had my first recurrence (a tumor near my ribs) and had surgery to remove it.
In the spring of this year, late March 2019, nearly three years to the day, I was diagnosed with a second recurrence. This time, metastatic. Another tumor in the same area as last year’s, plus lesions in my right upper arm bone, and a suspicious, to-be-watched lesion on my liver.
The cancer had spread. It had metastasized.
And what “metastatic” means to me is “inoperable.” It means terminal. It means The Rest of Your Life.
It means: You’ll never be free of it, it’s here to stay.
The hope I once had of returning to normal is gone. Gone. I will now be living with cancer for as long as I am alive.
And so once again I make adjustments. I grieve, my husband and I talk about our options, we regroup.
I wanted this post to be about jealousy. I wanted to talk about what this new diagnosis means in terms of loss and change, and the way I feel and talk about time. I wanted to talk about what energy means, what an average day used to feel like, and what it is now. How making coffee was just that, and not an arduous series of breaths, painful movements, knocked-over cups and then utter, exhausted relief in crash-sitting to drink it.
I wanted to talk about the ache I feel when I scroll through social media sites and witness families smiling in the sun, a photo of a mother and child in an inner tube on a river, a lazy and slow river where on a beach dogs and small children upon arrival run to greet them. I wanted to write about the long-held ache in my throat when photo after photo of mountains, some friend’s reunion in a cabin, the Paris couple’s kiss, the neighbor’s good times at the local pub, and all of their clicked “likes” and “looking good” comments show up on my feed as if everything were normal. As if time, like the lazy river, was to be had in these long hours, fistful after fistful, all of us just looking around in total wonder, endlessness its own known gift.
Dear god, I miss the eyes half-closed sheer bliss of not knowing it, all’s well, fat tire tube and being just another body in a lit, slow-moving, unpunctured ring.
I wanted to talk about the italics of energy and normal, the new italics of time. Each of these words is stretching forward past itself in an attempt to grab more, take more, because their own current letter legs are weak. Today’s an unknown, the words seem to tell me, so make sure there’s a bit of them in the future. Bank all three: energy, normal, time. Always lean towards the next hour, the next day.
-Is not how I really want to live, though. Too much leaning forward means a weaker grounding, means the weight on one’s footing is likelier to sway. It means I’m not here fully. It means rush and hurry.
I’m so jealous of other people’s lives. Their health, their beautiful families, their cancer- and fear-free lives—
the ability to plan, to think in one- and five-year increments. The gift of time that is handed to them. The safety glass that still protects their days — it’s an illusion of course but they still have it—
Maybe that’s you? Lucky. You’re a lucky one. And you’re innocent of course. How would you know, did I know, that we had that luck when we had it? No one does. It’s the nature of health to be unseen until it’s not. It’s a Plexiglass dome on top of a building.
For me, that safety glass is gone now. A wind is blowing and always will blow. It’s a closer step now to a long way down.
I feel obligated to write something hopeful but I can’t.
It feels more authentic to me to just stay here and say: sudden.
To say: time.
I am not a comfort.