Saturday, April 6, 2013

The "in between" cancer anniversaries

Cancer anniversaries – some call them cancerversaries – can be good, bad and in between.

Bad, of course, is date of diagnosis, and good is date of finishing treatment that recedes in time. I am four years, two months and one week out, but who's counting. God willing and the creeks don't rise, I will get to five years and call it a day.

This time of year being ten years after my diagnosis, I am thinking more about the in between than I usually do. I am in between two of those dates, April 4 and April 9.

These dates are not in my head. They're in the little blue book that Diane gave me 10 years ago to keep track of everything. Nowadays many people mark important dates in their phones or computers, but I like having this spiral notebook as a visual reminder of my cancer journey. It's coffee- and ink-stained, and during bad periods, my handwriting is almost illegible.

I wrote, "Last day of work: Friday, April 4."

And underneath that, "Admission, 4/9/03 (Wednesday)."

I can see both of those days clearly.

On Friday, thinking for some reason that I'd get something done, I went to work. I figured I would be treated locally at Baystate Medical Center. But the phone rang constantly. It was friends and family insisting that I go to Dana-Farber, one of the top cancer institutes in the country and about 90 miles from me in Boston. I finally gave in, and that Monday I left for Boston, saying goodbye to my children and my life as I knew it.

After my initial appointment with my new doctor, Daniel J. Angelo, Diane and I enjoyed a couple of days of retail therapy in Boston while waiting for a time to have surgery to implant the Hickman Catheter through which I would receive chemotherapy. We saw a movie, went to a jewelry store and picked up books and soft clothes to wear in the hospital – yoga pants and T-shirts so I wouldn't have to lie around in those awful hospital johnnies. That Wednesday, we went to Brigham and Women's Hospital loaded with stuff such as posters to put on the wall, videos, books, my quilt that I had brought from home and a lamp to serve as an alternative to harsh hospital lighting.

After the surgery, we set up the room, and it was finally time for Diane to leave. It was just me and my fears.

Then a bubbly nurse brought me Oreos. She chatted about this and that as she sat with me for a chemotherapy "push" going directly into my veins. The fear on that date was worse than the reality. Later, of course, as the chemotherapy did its work, I became extremely sick. But that night turned out to be OK.

Judy became one of my many nurse friends, and I still seek her out when I return to visit from time to time.


Diane said...

An amazing journey, all the more amazing by your fortitude and determination to put one foot in front of the other. I'm glad to have been there to help you along the way and that you are here now, enjoying today and looking forward to a bright future.

Anonymous said...

i remember every minute of that morning...and treasure every memory of your valiant victory!