A year ago this week, I received my last chemotherapy treatment. I resembled one of those rookie marathoners who cross the finish line barely ahead of the street sweeping machines, hobbling across the finish line barely able to move and beyond any feeling or thought other than I WILL FINISH. That was me, a ragged pile of bones, unable to cut my food, open a bottle, shower unassisted or put my dog’s leash on. I couldn’t move the muscles in my forehead. My intestines held so many work stoppages, I believed the French had colonized them. I had night sweats and cramps and tinnitus so severe I had a difficult time carrying on conversations. I could not think my way out of a paper bag.
I lied to everyone, including my doctor. Told them I was fine, just a little tired, no big deal, nothing I couldn’t handle. I threw down a Tebow move at the end of my chemo session. The nurses presented me with a certificate. Some of them cried. My dear friend, who had accompanied me on so many treatments, took me to lunch and had to cut my chicken-fried steak for me. She brought me home and as she always did, asked if there was anything else she could for me and as always, I insisted there was not and she had done enough already.
I had lost so much weight that getting undressed wasn’t all that difficult. I didn’t even have to unbutton my jeans. And no one seemed to notice that I’d stopped wearing shirts with buttons. So, I took off my clothes and put on my flannel pajamas and didn’t get out of bed until mid-January. But, by God, I finished.
It was only after chemo that I let myself think about all the other things modern medicine had planned for me – bi-lateral mastectomy, radiation, drug therapy, more surgery, more injections, etc. Now, here I sit, a year later, recovering from the first stage of reconstructive surgery. One group of doctors took me apart, piece by piece, and now another group of doctors – surgeons, neurologists, etc., get to put me back together.
I’ll never be the same. There is no returning to the old me. That isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t a good thing. It simply is. I can make something good out of it and that is my general plan but I take an instant dislike to anyone who tells me all of this was some part of God’s cosmic plan for my life. No God I’d have any truck with plans on cancer. I’m going to do what I can to make it work for me. I’m gonna write and travel and spend time with the people I love, eat good food, drink good spirits and experience all the beauty I can. Mostly, I want to make sure the people I love know how much I love them and the people who have mattered to me, know how much they mattered.
That’s the long term plan. The short term plan is on December 15th, I’m gonna pop the cork on some pink champagne and give a hardy Bronx salute to cancer.