There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about cancer. Today is the 1,250th day. That is a lot of time to think about cancer. That is a lot of pre-dawn pep talks and black midnight bargaining with God.
It is over 20,000 pills. It is taking pills to treat the side effects of the pills I take to treat the side effects of the pills I take to keep the cancer at bay. It is medical records filling five three-ring binders. It is a familiarity with the layouts and parking garages of four major hospitals. It is nine surgeries and counting. It is having twelve doctors listed under “D” in my phone contact list. It is being on the personal Christmas card list of oncology nurses.
It is everything. I did not want it to be everything. I refused to think it would be everything. I fought against it being everything. But I think if I am going to pull up and win this latest mental battle, I am going to have to concede this point to the cancer. It is everything. It is my new alpha and omega. It is the thing that will define however many more years I breathe air.
Big question marks have been floating about me, all these thousand days. What does the scan say? How are my numbers? What are my chances? What now? What’s next? I don’t think I’ve answered any of the questions as much as learned to endure them.
Other numbers, like six, for the number of months I have lost to beating myself up for not having answered all of the questions, for having no better idea of how to answer them than I did when this circus commenced. I realize now, taking a fresh look to words I wrote in the past, I’ve been caught in that particularly human trait of worrying about tomorrow and lamenting yesterday. In this to-ing and fro-ing, today gets lost.
More numbers, like four, for Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, the ill-est bitch on the breast cancer block. And eight, an 8% percent chance of making it this far. Twenty-six, the median months of survival. Forty is a good number. Forty is the number of months I have survived.
Today, I’m alive. No, I haven’t finished the book. No, I haven’t ticked off any of the big items on my life list. No, I haven’t folded the laundry. But I’m alive. I have to remember what an honest to fucking God miracle that is.