After a bit of a blogging hiatus it seems rather fitting to start back up with this post. I haven't written anything for awhile because I've been busy and spending a lot more time behind a computer at work. Truth be told, the hiatus may resume after this post while I finish up a few magazine articles and ride my horses. But on to the reason for this post...
Four years ago today, I was tipped upside down in a chemo chair at the UConn Health Center in Farmington waiting for my last chemo session for Hodgkin lymphoma while my port gave the nurses headaches. A lot of people recognize their cancerversary as the day they were diagnosed. To tell you the truth, I don't remember the day I was diagnosed. I was filling out a medical form shortly after diagnosis and it asked for the date of diagnosis. I couldn't remember it and made one up. I knew it was a Friday, that it was in September and the year was 2008. The 18th seemed like a good day to me and that's been my diagnosis date ever since.
My diagnosis date was irrelevant to me because it took a year of misdiagnosis, two years of debilitating pain and golf ball sized lumps in my neck to get to that date. By the time Dr. J finally diagnosed me with cancer I was just glad to have an answer.
There are two days in the myriad of doctor appointments that I do remember distinctly. October 30th was my first chemo and April 3rd was my last. In the grand scheme of cancer, I got off easy, I did my six months and got out. Knock on wood, fingers crossed and anything else that is lucky I will never have to go back again.
April 3rd is the day I finally got to put it all behind me and that is the day I choose to acknowledge.
I moved to Ashford shortly after I finished chemo. In October, I moved to Windham and one of the boxes that came with me was filled with cancer related paperwork. One night I sat on the couch, re-read it all and threw it all away. I kept the second box of cancer stuff - the box of cards all of you sent me during chemo and things from the dinner - thank you! The only other things I kept were the original PET scan results; the ones that were explained to me as "You lit up like a Christmas tree," meaning there was cancer everywhere and the "medical life plan" that my oncologist Dr. A gave me after my last chemo.
Throwing all of that cancer paperwork away was an activity to bring closure to that time of my life (not to mention its one less box to move next time, because I'll be moving again before too long). But I've realized that you can never completely leave the past behind because it becomes part of who you are.
I'm working on three articles for Massachusetts Horse magazine right now. I love writing for that magazine and the people and their horses that I get to meet. Monday night, I did three phone interviews and had a slew of emails as well. And then I read an email from one lady that stopped me in my tracks. The interview lead had come from a friend of the lady, who told me, I knew a special horse. I told the friend, "have the owner contact me." The horse's owner emailed me a faded picture of her daughter on a Morgan gelding and the story that went with it made me cry.
Here is a condensed version of their story: The daughter (an avid horsewoman) was a year older than me and was diagnosed with cancer when she was 20 and given a 2% survival rate. She died in September of 2000. Shortly after that, the mom found the daughter's childhood horse, a Morgan gelding and brought him home to live out his retirement and offer her some solace and friendship. In 2010, when the horse was 31, the mom was sitting on a bench dedicated in her daughter's memory at the beach in Maine when the vet called from the mom's home about the horse - he was sick. As the mom sat on her daughter's bench talking to the vet, the horse took his last breath.
I haven't responded to that email yet, but I will. And I will figure out how to incorporate that girl, her horse and her mom into the article I'm writing. I don't know yet if I'll tell the woman why her story resonated with me, or about the Morgan gelding who babysat me while I was on chemo and continues to be one of the best friends I'll ever have. The point is, all or our stories are intertwined and the past comes back. It can come back and haunt you, or it can come back and remind you of all you have to be grateful for. I choose to be grateful.