I missed my cancerversary this year. No anxiety or depression as August 29th rolled around. No time taken to reflect. It came and went like any other day. Yesterday it occurred to me that I’d missed it, and I realized I’ve passed a milestone. A moment in time where cancer is less present, less in my mind and heart.
It turns out there’s nothing special about that date. It’s not magical and has no power on its own, just the power I’ve given it. Not that it isn’t normal or understandable to mark these days. They sometimes have offered me a chance to be grateful that there but for the grace of the universe… But mostly these past few years they’ve been occasions for fear and flashes of memory. Mostly triggers for a whirlwind of emotion.
September got here unmolested by all of that and now, a few days past, I can still be grateful. Grateful without the curse of fear and sadness.
Paul Simon has a song, “Slip Slidin’ Away,” that I love. One line is “a bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.” So I guess I’m slip slidin’ away from that memory. Seven years and good health will do that for you I guess.
Luck is, by definition, a capricious thing. Sort of the mirror image of grace I suppose. You get what you don’t deserve. Unlike grace, luck can be bad. Getting cancer was bad luck. Deep down in my cells there is cause and effect. But up here in the world, who knows how the cells go bad, go rogue, start dividing and growing, growing, growing. And who knows why the treatments work, when they do.
All I know is that I’m grateful the treatments worked, that I’m here, that I’m not lying in bed thinking about what might have been. I’m grateful that I don’t have side effects from the meds, that I haven’t had a recurrence.
Today I read about the death of one of the greats in my profession, who died from breast cancer. She got the bad luck and the suffering. And it hits like a sledge hammer in my heart and gut.
The trick, for me, is living beneath an umbrella of grace with gratitude. And that means remembering my good fortune and letting go of my fear. It means living in healthy ways. It means offering generosity to the world around me, giving people a break. It means laughing when I can and breathing in deeply this humid air.
From Mary Oliver:
to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go
My own life depends on holding this grace against my bones because my life does depend on it. This is not, thankfully, a time for letting it go.
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