I woke today and the room had that winter white cast that only December brings, the kind that feels new and especially pretty when a blue sky or red Christmas bow cut through it, when its shadows criss cross the bed over sleeping cats. It’s December 21, the shortest day of the year and the longest night, the most darkness and the least light. There is much about this day that suggests one should bundle up and go on a brisk winter walk, look around, take stock and breathe in the day with every sense. Or this day might call for a lazy nap, a pot of chili simmering on the stove, a pile of books by your side.
For me, this day was neither. It was just a day. I’m beginning to see how normal and ok regular ‘ol days are. I had a few plans but otherwise didn’t feel its magic. Didn’t step out into it in any real way to experience any shift, any movement out of darkness and into light away from this mood that has been lurking in the shadows for weeks.
I didn’t want to write another blog about my health or my worries, and instead hoped I’d find inspiration elsewhere. But this darkness culminating in this darkest of days has mirrored my days of late. I hope tomorrow’s light will cut through it, shredding it into bits that erode into nothing. I didn’t mindfully breathe deep today. I just breathed.
In the flurry of recent appointments, today I forgot and then I remembered. I forgot about the big picture as I stayed busy these last 7 weeks moving through milestones and biopsies, scars and scans. Today I remembered the treatments I’ll start December 27th and then the break I’ll get in April, then the other treatments after that and the medication beyond. I remembered the happy that took hold when I learned about things like negative nodes and margins and how I thought surgery marked the end and the beginning, the end of worry and the start of healing. I rejected the journey and instead made it a timeline. It was behind me and everything was ahead.
You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know how you’ll fare tomorrow in Atlanta traffic or if a bus will run over you. You don’t know if you’ll have success with the last items on your Christmas list or if time will run out, the store will close and you’ll come up short, having to change your plans and instead of little gifts you’ll find yourself at an ATM out of ideas withdrawing cash. You don’t know if after these treatments, this invader and his growing list of friends who felt welcome to burrough inside you will return. As if you were robbed and you fortified your locks, installed an alarm, hid your jewelry and now you can either roll on, knowing you’ve done all you need to do or stand still and wonder, frozen by what ifs.
For the last two weekends I travelled, first to Chapel Hill and then to Ann Arbor, two great college towns hosting holiday parties for my husband’s company that I each gifted with a pink pen I’d picked up at my appointments. I couldn’t carry those pens, carry all that pink ink. Those pens needed to leave my possession, my state even, and reside elsewhere. I made my husband leave them at hotel reception or the restaurant where we had lunch. Someone else can pick up those pens and have that hot potato in their hands. Someone else probably won’t view those pens as I do. They will find use with those pens, use them as the tools they are.
Today I felt it, the heavy road I’m on, a dread I’m feeling in advance of the nausea, a dry run of the dry heaves, a dress rehearsal for treatment. It felt large, it felt useless, it felt endless. I’ve got to return to my timeline and instead check off days, treatments, milestones. I can’t look ahead because five years out and then ten can’t come soon enough. I want to be cured and have all this in my rear view mirror, but the road is still in front, long and winding, unknown and unseen.
Tomorrow a friend will help me begin to learn how to meditate, a key tool in the toolbox I will need for now and for later, a tool we all need if we’re going to navigate choppy water and have it not feel so rough, or paddle in still glassy waters and be able to fully experience that velvety calm. And then I will see a friend and we’ll share a meal. And after that, who knows what. Like a child on a trip, I keep asking am I there yet, and the answer never comes. But the lack of an answer is an answer. I’m not there yet, none of us are. We are moving forward, together, and with ourselves.
Today has now shifted into tomorrow which begins the start of longer days. I’m reminded to keep moving, and as I drive out these cells, I must walk out of my own cell, and be free. Breath deep. Begin where you are. You are enough. The sunshine is ahead even though you can’t see it. Spring is coming.