Here I am, one year in.

It was one year ago that I found out I had cancer. It was a Thursday, and Chris and I were leaving our driveway en route to a friend’s house to pick up Matilda when a call came in from New Haven. It was Dr. Patel, the young guy who did my biopsy that Monday and who would eventually tell me my tumor was gone four months later. He started to speak, “Unfortunately....” that was really all I heard. I broke down. I cried. I was terrified. But I wasn’t shocked. I had a feeling this was coming. Not because of my hypochondria and assumption I’d have cancer at some point.... but because I prepared myself. Leading up to my biopsy, I had the entire spectrum of emotion. I didn’t sleep. I tried to numb the pain with wine. I watched Fixer Upper, all seasons. I barely functioned. The day of the biopsy is a blur. Lindsay tells me she has never seen me that way. I had no strength, no will, no smile. Then I woke up the next day. I went through the two outcomes. Either I had cancer, or I didn’t. I figured it is much better to be completely relieved than utterly shocked and devastated. If I prepped for the cancer, it wouldn’t be as hard to hear the words. Right? No. Those words are never easy. They are sharp and direct and fucking serious. But because I had processed my worry and response in advance, there was part of me that was relieved. “Okay, I have cancer. I thought this would happen. Now what?” The waiting was also over. That really was the worst part. 

Chris gave me rational strength, to look at it for what it was. In fact, during that dreaded waiting period, when I was emotional and panicked, he laid it out for me; he said there was a road ahead of us — it might be bumpy, lots of twists and turns, or it could be straight — either way, we’re taking that road. That was it, we had no choice. That lack of an alternative has stayed with me this entire time. It’s what drives my positivity. It’s what stops my worry. My mom has always told me not to worry about something until you have to, and jokes that I am always good at finding something to worry about when there is not one. It is different now. There is no alternative, I do what I have to do. It is amazing when you can check your anxiety at the door. Things begin to hurt less. If you told me last summer that once a week I would have an inch long and thick needle slammed into this Ironman-esque thing in my chest... I would think about that needle every day of my life. And that thing under my skin!? It’s like the girl from SmalI Wonder! I’ve never been much into opening up the back of someone like a fuse box. The anticipation would be so bad I would lose sleep over it. Yet once I got the news, once I had a plan, there was only one thing to do. It really is mind over matter. I used to think the IV was the worst part of a c-section... and now I have a preference as to which veins they stick. Another story to show you how debilitating my worry could be... When we were moving to CA from CT four years ago, I was happy to leave our house because it had house centipedes. Lots of them. Then Heather reminded me that central CA has tarantulas. If you don’t think I asked every possible landlord, store owner, server, table-next-to-us-at-dinner, if there were tarantulas.... well, you don’t know me at all. I can worry. 

I remember the initial meeting with Dr. Silber and Dr. Chagpar. Lindsay wrote about it here. It was a long and tiring appointment that reassured me I was in the right place and with the right people. It gave me a plan, a long and really annoying plan. I was told I’d have to get the port like they were telling me to get the mail. Port, okay. Next? I remember feeling so confident in there, family around me, smart doctors, a beautiful hospital, there was absolutely no fear. I was surrounded by support, by comrades, by people and things that were going to fix me. It was hugs all around and off we went to the boutique in the hospital. Lyn and Heather tried on scarves and hats and I started to do the same. I didn’t get the cloth passed my forehead before something changed. It became real. I saw a vision of the person I was about to become. I was alone. I wasn’t dealing with this alone, but it was me who had to deal with it. I had to endure the pain and discomfort we just heard about for three hours. We walked to a vegetarian restaurant near the Yale campus (we had just learned plant-based is best so we weren’t messing around). Students bustled to class, people laughed, drank, enjoyed life. There I was... I was walking but didn’t realize it. I was sitting with my family, chatting and laughing, but I wasn’t present. I was in another reality where I was bald, I was sick, I was in pain, and I had cancer. It surprised me how quickly I felt alone and it took a day or two after that moment to get back to where I needed to be. And then I shaved my head. I maintain that that was the single-most beneficial, productive, and necessary thing I have done throughout this entire process. It gave me my control. It made this time mine. 

Now I sit at my dining room table, reflecting on this last year and wondering where in the hell the time has gone. My plan felt like an eternity. I couldn’t wait for each step, and now almost all have passed. Even though I have 11 more doses and almost a year left of Herceptin, I truly feel like I’m in the final stages. Things are often spoken of in the past now and it’s more about where I am and what is next...not for treatment, but for me. The last two treatments have been great. They are quick and easy — almost too quick actually. My mom, Heather and I hung around the first one for about an hour after my infusion was finished. We pulled the curtain and chatted with my Smilow peeps. It was wonderful to be back. My second was on Wednesday and my dad, myself, and Dr. Silber caught up and mostly spoke about the grotesque situation our country is currently in and how her students are feeling about their school. Then for the infusion we got a private room, usually reserved for those patients who are very sick, and enjoyed treatment - me in a bed, and he in an infusion chair (like a La-Z-Boy). I am tired but have been told that it is more likely due to my children rather than the treatment. Isn’t that a wonderful thing. 

Much love to you all. xo b