I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma in July, 2011. It really wasn't a shock. I knew the mole on my back wasn't a good thing. What I didn't know was what Melanoma was really all about. That WAS a shock. During my first appointment with my oncologist, he told me to stay off of the internet. As if. I had spent 15 years working for a medical malpractice attorney. There was no way in hell I was staying off the internet. And what I found scared the shit out of me. BUT, it also changed me in a good way. I decided not long after my diagnosis that I wasn't going to let this cancer rule my life. I had it. It did NOT have me. And I decided that I would do everything in my power to make sure that others maybe wouldn't have to go down the road I was about to travel. The last, and maybe the most important thing I decided, was that I was not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. Yup, like many other cancer patients, I throw myself the occasional pity party. But overall, I am a positive person...even when it comes to the fact that I am a Stage 4 cancer patient.
The day I met my surgeon in July, 2011 after we were through with the exam and a not very pleasant fine needle aspiration of a lymph node under my arm, he asked me whether I had any questions. I told him my 50th birthday was a little over 3 months away. Will I be here for it, I asked? He smiled, and said "Absolutely." My 50th was my best birthday ever, by the way.
Got through that. Phew! Next up? Thanksgiving...and Christmas. Gulp. Christmas is my favorite time of year, hands down. And that year, as I began to decorate the house, it smacked me right in the face. My first holiday "what if." As in what if this is my last Christmas? What if this is the last time I get to put up this tree and the ornaments on it that mean so much to me? What if the last Christmas Eve I'll be here to spend with my husband and daughters and the rest of our family. Worse...what if this is their last Christmas with me? I would be gone, after all. Not hard on me...hard on them.
And so it's gone since July of 2011. Every holiday, every birthday, every family event. I wonder. Will I be here for this next year?
I've been fortunate, and I'm truly grateful. This "what if" thing is brief. I don't allow it to ruin these important days for me. In fact, I think it makes them better. As a cancer patient, you really do learn about what's important. These days with my family and friends are more important than anything, and I submerse myself 100% in the joy of the moment no matter what. This is my third Christmas since diagnosis. My third Thanksgiving. My parents and daughters and sisters and friends have gotten a little older, and I've been here to see it. And I'll keep fighting to see more of those important days. But for a brief moment, I will always wonder...what if?
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Filed under: Cancer