happy anniversary?

i slipped up today.  i was at an early morning appointment with a customer who i have been working with for a long time now.  we were discussing when his husband was returning from a long out-of-town trip so that we could schedule some showings in a few weeks.  standing on the street as people hurried past us toward the subway, we were filled with a little exhilaration about the possibilities of what we had just seen and the good feeling that we would all together be able to put ‘boots to the ground’ for a push in showings once his husband returned.  i turned on my treo and went to my calendar and flipped the date forward two weeks to october 26th – the first date we could all go out together – and said, without thinking: “oh, that’s my anniversary!”.  instantly the response came back: “how sweet, congratulations!”  and i found myself saying: “oh no, not that anniversary; my cancer anniversary.”   

pause

looking into his eyes i realized that he did not know.  i always think everyone knows.  i thought it was written across my face and my psyche for the past almost-4 years.  leaving behind the memory of my reflection sans hair in every store window i passed for a year doesn’t fade quickly.  i am only just catching up to processing the acres of time i spent laying in bed willing time to go by: sometimes so that i could get to the next anti-nausea pill or sometimes so i could get to the next pain killer (oh that taxol!) or sometimes so i could get to the end of the day just to put that day behind me.  i had to become a new person – not necessarily a better one…just a different one – to be able to talk to people while i was ‘in the process’.  the new one looked fragile but tried to not act it.  looked sick and tried to find a few funny lines to help shrug off the visuals and the assumptions.  moved like a frail old woman and tried to replace fitness with slowly lunking along my brooklyn streets and coming up with potential cancer song-parody lines. 

i know, you’d think that almost-4 years is a long time.  it is and it isn’t.  it’s just enough time to start to come out of the shell-shock of it all.  i’d say that happened for me around three years – and remember that 10 months of the 1st year were taken up with surgery then chemotherapy then radiation then a month of essentially sleeping all the time.  for the past year i have highs where my heart can’t remember for a few fleeting moments that any of it ever happened and then deep lows where i am reminded that i learned the real lesson and cliche that life truely turns on a dime.  it all changes in a moment with no notice.  those are moments of deep terror both in anticipation of what might come and to try to come to terms with the precipice on which i found myself standing.  the possiblity of losing my family and them losing me. 

i looked straight into his eyes.  ‘breast cancer.  almost 4 years ago.  i thought you knew.’  ‘no, i didn’t realize’ came back the reply as his eyes tried to find a focus on me that i saw changed what he had seen up til now.  ‘it’s a good thing’, i said.  ‘that was 4 years ago.’  i smiled.  ‘here i am!’

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