I realize I've been away from here for awhile. That I've taken my annual summer vacation, and then some. I've missed you guys, but my words have not been working. As one blogger put it, "when I can't write everything, I somehow can't write anything." And no, before you even wonder, Chris and I are not getting a divorce (like the blogger I quoted). But there has been some stuff going on that I haven't been ready to write about. I've had what you might call a needle-scratching-across-the-record moment, and I've had to regain my bearings and catch my breath. I'm still trying to find my voice again.
I considered writing a whole post about going to my 20-year high-school reunion in July, which if you'd asked me last summer I would've said optimistically I'd be here to attend, but truthfully, I wasn't so sure. Not in the I'm-not-sure-I-want-to-do-one-of-those-things kinds of ways, because I get reunions are not everyone's jam, but in the I-might-be-dead kind of way. And then here it was, and there I was doing the small (and not-so-small) talk. I reconnected with old friends and wondered why we'd lost touch. Later, after we'd left the party, I sobbed with my oldest girlfriend because it was monumental. Because we've been through so much these past
This summer has felt like I'm on the edge of a precipice. It could be the aura of magic and mystery I've superstitiously (stupidly?) placed on my five-year cancerversary coming up later this month, like it's some sort of expiration date for cancer, even though I know CANCER DOESN'T FOLLOW THE RULES. I am lucky as a leprechaun that I get to be here to wrestle with my emotions about this date again this year. Do I pop champagne to mark the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life? Write a letter to my younger self about what I wish I'd known? I will probably take a yoga class and cry in child's pose.
When I was diagnosed, the statistics said I had a 20% chance to make it to five years.
I am grateful, above all else. But there is also a healthy (and really, that's questionable) mix of fear and guilt as well. Every day another friend writes of the pain she's in, or has to have a port placed on her BRAIN to deliver chemo directly to it, or has to have her liver biopsied to see whether her cancer has jumped the fucking shark. Or died. This weekend, I learned of another friend who lost her life to metastatic breast cancer. And a fellow participant in the Story Half Told project has entered hospice. This is my tribe, and I want them all to be as lucky as I've been. But that is just not the way it goes with cancer.
My therapist has suggested I give myself a break this month, that I take it easy while my brain's emotion centers do a lot of processing. Except writing is kind of how I process, so here I am.
Even bigger than 5 years of cancer is the fact that Quinn started kindergarten today.
How's that for a precipice? I can't even look at my sweet child without tears welling up in my eyes lately. How incredibly fortunate am I, that I was able to shop for new clothes and school supplies with him, that I could relish in those last few days of summer with my favorite person, that I held his hand at meet-the-teacher day and helped him locate his cubby? So fortunate. So emotional.
In fact, these emotions are too big to contain. They are spilling right down my cheeks as we speak.
As I tucked him into bed last night, I felt a strange knocking in my chest and throat, like my heart was actively trying to escape my chest through my neck. I audibly sobbed as I choked on it, and Quinn wordlessly handed me his current favorite stuffed animal to comfort me. Quinn lay across me, with his head on my belly. I held his foot in my hands, measured it against my palm and wondered how the last five years have passed in a blink.
For so much of his life, I wasn't sure I would be here for this. I've spent so long preparing for the worst, and hoping down to the core of my being for a chance at the best. Driving last week, as Quinn played a game on my phone and giggled in the backseat, I listened to Damien Rice singing Leonard Cohen's iconic song. Suddenly I understood exactly what it meant for something to be a cold and broken Hallelujah.
I don't remember who said it, but there's a quote about how children will break your heart, just by the simple act of growing up. And it's glorious, but, oh, how it aches. Still, for now at least, I get to be here for the best of it. How lucky am I?