365 days. 14 infusions. 875 chemo pills.
Numbers and numbers and numbers, which mean only so much. Still, today is an anniversary (my diagnosis of cancer anniversary), in that we have designated 1 year as an arbitrary measure of time and importance, to mark a passage of…something…experiences I suppose. And although I feel very little emotional weight with this anniversary, it does mean something, because it’s an impetus to reflect, to think about experiences that have come to be in the past 365 days since my cancer diagnosis.
But if I’m being blunt…my whole perspective on today’s anniversary is just…”Eh”. Like, it’s just another day of living with/through/against cancer. 365 is just a number, except…that it isn’t necessarily JUST a number. It’s a streak of experiences. It’s a demarcation of change. A measurement of how I’ve lived through this separation of 366 days ago to 365 days. 366 days ago I was confused and annoyed. 365 days ago I was briefly stunned. But only briefly. There was work to be done.
And maybe that’s why I’m so “eh” about this whole cancer experience to this point…because right now I’m doing pretty damn good considering. I mean, after diagnosis, everything happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to consider what was going on, to be afraid of cancer. I only had the logistics of rearranging my life and preparing for surgery and what was to come. And after surgery, even after things didn’t go as planned and this became my “indefinite” life, I continued on. Ultimately, cancer has never scared me.
It has brought me to dark places, welled up tears within me, and draped me in an apprehension more for my son than myself…but I was never scared. Cancer has never gotten to the point where I FELT it’s power. And for that I am VERY fortunate. That isn’t to say it’s been a minor annoyance. Not by any means. The power of chemotherapy has kept me on a swinging pendulum of physical discomfort and temporary relief, sometimes allowing me to be very physical and active, while other times leaving me barely able to walk.
But that pendulum continues to swing and cancer just hangs there in the balance, barely noticeable beneath the toxicity of chemo.
To express it succinctly, even through the worst of these 365 days, my life is pretty great right now…even better than where I was pre-cancer. I have a wonderful significant other who has brightened my days and given me great comfort. My relationship with my son continues to grow deeper and deeper. I have finally taken the leap to pursue my design and writing career (with success…so far). I’ve been surrounded by the love and encouragement of friends and strangers alike. I have met and interacted with so many inspirational and fascinating people around the world who have been drawn to my story. And ultimately…I have continued to live with the same intensity and passion that filled my days even before diagnosis.
My only lingering frustration at this point is my inability to get back to my running strength. My feet are still consumed by the compromising numbness and pain of neuropathy, limiting my episodic streaks of daily runs to around 4 miles before the pain becomes overwhelming. But hey…right now…I’m running. As a matter of fact, I rode my bike to the gym this morning and ran for the 4th day straight, then rode back home, with plans to get in some trail running tomorrow. That’s a pretty rad victory for me right now and I can’t think of a better way to mark this anniversary.
I just don’t feel like I’m dying. Chemo is working. My lifestyle is working. And with a second surgery on the distant horizon come August 12th, maybe we can put all this behind me. Maybe. But in the meantime, I’m continuing on as I always have, adding days and days on top of the 365 that have passed to this point.
But those are just numbers. It’s not that I’ve ticked off 365 days on my calendar, but that I have continued to try and BETTER each one as it comes, to give back the positivity I’ve received from others, to live life as best I know how through each one.
In the end, however this cancer experience plays out, I can at least know that however many days I crossed off on my calendars, however many “eh”nniversaries I celebrated, however many infusions, pills and surgeries come my way, that the numbers were outshines by the experiences I created and discovered along the way.
In the end…that’s all that matters.