Reasons to Love
Reasons to Love (Sung to the tune of Seasons of Love from the musical Rent) If you are unfamiliar google it and sing along:
One million, fifty-one thousand, two hundred minutes. One million, fifty-one thousand, moments so weird. One million, fifty-one thousand, two hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure two years?
In bloodwork? In surgery? In implants? In rounds of chemo?
Infections? Infusions? In puking up ice? In one million, fifty-one thousand, two hundred minutes. How do you measure two years out of your life?
How about gloves? How about blood? How about love? Measure in Love Two years of love.
Two years today, with a Port safely ensconced between my now battered and bruised breasticles, I started what I officially felt was the beginning of my Cancer journey. For me, everything leading up to this moment was all just prep work. Squeeze. Poke. Prod. Needle. Scan.
The first chemo treatment made it all real. No phone calls that this was a mistake. No turning back.
There are moments that this seems like it was forever ago; other moments that it seems like just yesterday.
I’m often asked what the year was like for my family.
For me, family includes all the people that were always there – Mama Bear, The Chef, The Visitor, The Queen of Cards and Gifts, The Cowboy, Momma and Repeat.
Ok – not their real names but I know they fully recognize themselves in the nicknames. These were people that were so instrumental in my recovery that they are family to me – now and forever – but the family I want to talk about are the 3 other brilliant, funny, witty people that are my immediate source of inspiration and pride…my hubby, son and daughter. The gifts they gave. The gifts I reluctantly accepted. The gifts so precious and intangible.
My intention was to make this journey as easy for my family as possible. I didn’t want to do anything that would upset the status quo of what we were all up to. I asked my hubby to just keep our little boat afloat and my kids, who were – at the time – in very rigorous college programs, to just keep their eyes on the prize; I would be a good patient, I would follow the rules and I would be fine. We would all be fine.
I planned – the universe laughed! My journey was neither smooth nor easy – both things I had intended. The universe not only laughed, she laughed so hard she peed a little bit.
But we are the Lucky Lows. We would show her. With these three amazing people by my side, behind me, surrounding me, lifting me up – I was going to kick Cancer’s ass and then some.
HUBBY: So patient on his third or fourth trip of the day to the store; sent to find me something that I thought I might be able to eat. Something that wouldn’t taste like quarters after the third bite, and possibly wasn’t even more disgusting if/when it came up. Chocolate pie – nope. Cookies and cream ice cream – nope. Crackers – something I hadn’t bought in two years – maybe and sometimes. Paradise Juice Wild Watermelon – always. Without complaints, he went to the store. One horrible eye sweat (tears) filled night there he was listening – not trying to fix. Me – with my face down on the table. A breakdown (after puking so hard one night that my nose bled) – him really listening – that I just wasn’t going to do it anymore. I was done. No more.
I wasn’t. He knew it. I knew it. But he listened. He was there. Always present. Always available. Always supportive. And that support has made our relationship better than it has ever been.
#1 SON: I recently asked him how it was for him. His response was his typical almost non-answer, “Eh, I was going through a break-up then, so it didn’t really affect me.” Yet there he was – every day – every night checking in. “How do you feel today?”
He was my Chemo Grigio designated driver. I hated that/I loved that! It was so frustrating to not be able to drive myself to chemo. (Voices of survivors ahead of me bounced around in my head, “Oh, I always drove myself to all my chemo treatments.” I knew the, “You must be a big ol’ pussy because you can’t drive yourself,” was inferred. They didn’t have to say it – felt it.) But there was my baby boy, arriving at school early so he could take me for my day filled with delectable cocktails…waved away before he could see me puke in the garbage can before I went inside.
He was the one who went out and bought me a Wii U game console as he had researched it would be good for my chemo brain. Teaching his frail mother how to kick Zelda’s ass! Break-up or not – there he was.
#1 DAUGHTER: How hard it was to share with her via Skype! My mini-me. My inspiration. The person I called the day I shaved my head and was blubbering over Skype. Eye sweat dripping on my shirt. Snot bubbles. Blubbering. Me telling her how ugly I felt, when I was really trying to express how ugly the cancer was. Cancer, that on the day I shaved my head took the lives of two people I knew. How I wanted to share with her that fear. Fuck the hair. I was afraid and I didn’t know how to tell her other than to say I felt ugly.
This amazing young beauty who arranged, from New York, the most perfect, meaningful, surprise birthday party EVER. How well she knows me. No people. Just cards and letters and even some gifts. And then topped it off by not telling anyone and walking in the door to be there with me.
How fortunate I felt to take a 5 day break from Radiation to go watch her fashion show in New York. I wanted to ask her how the cancer had been for her but in seeing a book that had been bound with some of her writings, there was no need when I found this:
Despite what I miss, and even worse: things I will, I’m still thankful as fuck for my first room: the womb of the first woman I ever knew: A bad bitch, Now titless And Uterus-less Raised me only to be Nothing less than A bitch twice as bad as she.
& all my favorite clothes were worn by her first: the same sleeves, once surrounding a sleeping soundly baby version of me: now act like skin for bones over adult arms: still surrounding me. A silent lullaby seeping out of the seams recalls some necessity:
how her voice comforted me, & with my head pressed into my own folded arms on my desk, I can feel the echoes of her hum: an auditory hug, still left over somewhere in this cuff. Ghost of the past: Mom of my memories, lingering just to comfort me from future ghost Mom. dead-set and bent on haunting me after video calls: scheduled weekly, so guilty, for barely being able to hear the words she’s speaking. I fucking try, but human emotions haven’t evolved to cope with technology – left questioning the ethics of this: 2500 miles of distance closed through internet connection, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to witness my Mom, slowly dying via skype.
Today is two years past the first drops of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin and Perjeta dripping into my veins to kill those little fuckers that were trying to kill me. Those little cancer cells that may have gotten away. The ones I still think about – the ones ALL of us survivors think about. The ones hiding. Waiting.
The chemical cocktail that coursed through my body changed me. The removal of my breasticles changed me. The love of my cancer squad changed me. And the love and support of my family has FOREVER changed me.
Two years ago – a lifetime ago. A moment ago.
One million, fifty-one thousand, two hundred minutes.
And as crazy as it sounds – I wouldn’t change a thing. I have never felt so loved and happy in my entire life.