Celebrating all That is Good and Appreciating the Rest
September 16, 2003
Seven years ago today I went in for a routine mammogram. I remember being really busy and fretting that I was having to take time out of my day for something so annoying. I actually thought about calling and cancelling, then I realized I wouldn't have time until after the holiday season to reschedule. So I sucked it up, left work and went for the exam. (plus it had been 18 months since the last one)
The mammography tech had warm hands, we chatted, she was professional, and focused. I didn't pay attention when she took extra pictures. They always took extra pictures. When I got home that night she called from the hospital requesting that I return the next morning. I thought it odd that she called my home after 6:00 p.m. and promptly put it out of my mind.
Those warm hands from the afternoon before had detected something. The mood in the room this time was quieter, still professional but quieter and involved more people. The next week I had a biopsy - it confirmed what the professionals already suspected - cancer. The week after that I had a double mastectomy we now knew cancer had invaded the lymph nodes and exactly one month from the mammogram I began chemotherapy.
This isn't about that part of the journey. This is about here and now. This is about taking time to reflect on how lucky I am, this is about being thankful for everything and everyone in my life. This is about celebrating living. We are all survivors of something and I was just fortunate enough to have my life altered in such a way that I see things differently, more clearly and with a joy that goes beyond a moment. Don't get me wrong I don't walk around in a Pollyanna state, I live in the real world with real problems, real mood swings (menopause is grand) with real moments of being out of sorts. Yet I know that I don't take these things quite as seriously as I once did. But I do take the good times much more seriously and try not to take anything or anyone for granted.
Cancer showed me that I did have time for things beyond the Bookstore. It showed me that people are amazing and complicated and giving. It showed me how to say yes and when to say no. It showed me how to laugh when crying would have been easier. It taught me to look and think outside of the box. I learned to accept help from people that wanted nothing in return and learned that I have the best family and friends in the world.
When I looked at my calendar and saw the smiley faces and hearts drawn all over todays square I paused holding my cup of tea and smiled. It was 6:00 am and our puppy was bouncing around waiting to be taken for a walk (correction: he walks me we are still learning the rules of the leash) Bill walked by, looked at the calendar, touched my shoulder and squeezed my hand. He made oatmeal, I took Tonka for his walk and we both went to work.
Today is just a day, I didn't let cancer define me then and it doesn't define me now. If I had a choice would I do it all over again? No ( and I hope I am never faced with that choice). Am I angry that I had cancer? No. Am I glad that cancer introduced me to some wonderful people? Yes. Am I glad that cancer allowed me to understand myself and those around me better? Yes. Do I get sad and angry when others are diagnosed with cancer? Yes.
Today is just a day. I am waiting for the book order to arrive on the wonderful UPS truck, contemplating lunch, knowing I have to go to the grocery store after work because Tonka the Terrible ran out the door this morning with our last roll of toilet paper in his mouth, I will work out at the Y and when I get home I will be greeted by my husband and our puppy. I will have dinner and sit in my favorite chair with a cup of tea and finish one (possibly two books) I will go to bed, say a prayer of thanks and wake up tomorrow morning and start all over again.
Had I had the mammogram earlier would the outcome have been different? I don't know and I don't waste time asking that question. But please my friends don't skip your check ups, don't let your wives, your girlfriends, your grandmothers, your nieces, your mothers, your aunts, your daughters, your friends miss a mammogram it just takes a minute.