Saturday, May 30, 2009
It is Saturday. May 30, 2009. I am at work waiting for catering staff to show up so they can collect the things they need for the party they are serving tonight. Normally I would have gone home by now but some communication lines got crossed and so here I am, waiting for the staff. Which, if you look at it differently,as a positive thing instead of an "ugh I want to LEAVE thing" gives me time to write a note about today.
Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of me getting surgery for what turned out to be ovarian cancer. I remember going to deliver a breakfast-in-bed basket to a guy's wife and then driving myself home where I picked up my girlfriend and we went to the hospital so I could have my operation. When I went to the hospital I did not know how the surgery would turn out. When I woke up many hours later my girlfriend told me I had cancer. Again.
Ironically today I was delivery babe for a last minute drop off catering for a funeral. I am pretty sure that today's delivery was to the same house as that breakfast gift basket went to those 21 years ago. Funny.
Cancer hovers too near me these days. I have two friends who are in treatment right now. I have friends who are in the clear, but just barely. And I have friends who are waiting to hear the results of tests. This is too much. Too much for me sometimes.
One thing that happened as I started this ride project was that people starting coming to me and telling me their cancer stories. In the beginning I was filled with a certain fear whenever these conversations would start up. It's sort of like driving by an accident. I never want to look but I sometimes do anyway. In these conversations I never wanted to know but I found myself right in front of the horror and had to stand still and listen. I have learned to be supportive, to be a quiet listener, to hope that I can be some sort of example for someone just because I am alive. But what I had, I had. I'm different. We're ALL different and really how can MY story mean anything to anyone else?
And it got pretty scary and too close sometimes and I found myself closing off, shutting down, imagining clamping my hands over my ears and not letting anything in. I didn't want the warnings that people were sending me. I didn't want the fear. I didn't want the subject matter.
But at the same time, I'M the one who chose to add the layer of "cancer survivor" to this bike ride project and this is where it leads. Being the one who can, maybe, help. Being the one who is, maybe, the inspiration for someone not this far along in their recovery. Being the one who is learning how to be brave enough to talk about this, trusting that the talking is not going to get me sick again. But I feel my pulse race even as I write this.
The reality is that every time someone I know gets sick I get scared. And every time an anniversary comes up, a rush of gratitude - and fear - courses through me. Every doctor's appointment, every conversation with a cancer patient or survivor, every single one elicits a big, noticeable reaction in me.
So tomorrow is my 21st anniversary. The ride was all about my 20th anniversary, my 54th year, my Golden Year. I did it. I did the ride. I celebrated my Golden Year by doing a big thing. Now it is the beginning of another year. I am now 55. And I AM healthy. And I AM feeling braver and braver. It helps to have completed the ride. That was a pretty brave thing to do, mostly in ways I did not expect. Having done it makes me feel like, well, like I accomplished a big thing. And, more, that I have an obligation to do something more. Maybe this is it.
Maybe. I'll just write about that for a while.
I'm going to pick this up and write more again. I've missed it. Here's the first note. I'll be in touch now on a regular basis.