Saturday, August 23, 2014

16 Years Cancer Free




My cancer free anniversary came and went without me even pausing to notice it. Sixteen years ago a tumor was wrapped around my aorta twice. Sixteen years ago my sternum was split in half with an electric saw. Sixteen years.

I was 29. Now I am... not 29.
My daughter was eight. Now she is 24.
Weeks after my surgery, my husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. In just a few days, on September 9th, is our 25th wedding anniversary.

During the last 16 years, the trees in my garden have grown taller. My dark hair has fallen out from chemo. And grown back. And fallen out again from more chemo. And grown back all over again. Now it is streaked with gray.

After my surgery, I got carded at the liquor store. Now my daughter gets carded. Through my bifocals, I watch her pull out her ID. When she pours herself a cocktail, I wrestle back the urge to tell her, "Hey, what are you doing!" Then I remember she is 24 and I am... not young anymore.

Aging means aches and pains in the morning. It means middle age spread. It means wrinkles and gray hair. And it means you have survived. You survived close calls and near misses. You survived failures and set backs. You have been knocked over, and pushed down, and held down, and stressed to tears. And gotten back up again. You have learned to deal with pain, because pain is as much a part of life as laughter. No one tells you this. You learn it the hard way, the ugly way, the way that leaves seven inch surgical scars that still ache 16 years later when you turn your head to back up the car in the driveway.

Aging is the most amazing thing that can happen. It is proof you lived, even when death was an option. Aging is a gift to be celebrated. Gray hair, scars, and all.

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Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

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