Cancerversary: I remember because I can't forget

Cancerversary: I remember because I can't forget
This is me six months before diagnosis. “But the thing about remembering is that you don't forget.” ― Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Today is my cancerversary. Two years ago today a doctor told me that I had cancer. Just as I was waking up from anesthesia, he shoved an 8 1/2 x 11 photograph in my face of the tumor he removed. Less than an hour later I was treated intravesically with mitomycin, a procedure I have no recollection of agreeing to. The nurses wore, what looked like to me, biohazard suits. At least four of them arrived to dispose of the remains. To me they looked frightened and revolted by their unfamiliar relationship to administering mitomycin.

I was alone, desperately clutching sanity until my husband could get to the hospital from several hours away. It was Wednesday, and I had to wait until the following Tuesday to find out my diagnosis of stage 1 bladder cancer because of the Labor Day holiday.

So, today I remember because I can’t forget. Feelings of repulsion and trauma. Terror. That feeling that Susan Sontag describes as passing into another country.

Do I celebrate this day? Yes, I suppose, because I’m here, in remission. I’m very, very grateful for that. I’m grateful with every single cell in my body.

But it’s hard to celebrate.

I keep seeing that photograph of a tumor. And photographs of people I’ve never met who died of cancer. A little girl named Donna. The mother of a fellow blogger, Amy. The father of a friend.

I see the faces of my friends who’ve died. Betsy, Valeta, Tom, RC, Stephanie, Barbara, Mary Kay.

I think about the people suffering through treatments. I think about the people whose bodies have been damaged by treatments.

Their faces start flying from my memory into a collage of human suffering. They are my hometown.

My thoughts also turn to folks I’ve never seen, but to whom I’ve talked online and to whom I’ve listened. My online support group at BCAN, the lovely folks I’ve met on my Facebook page.

Our lives will never be the same. Is it wrong to tell you that I wish I could go back? Is it wrong to say that I don’t want to live in this town?

I don’t know if I’ll celebrate today. But I know I’ll remember because I can’t forget.

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