One Year Ago, Today….
A year ago today, I was on my way to Denver for my “debulking” surgery for ovarian cancer. I was told the operation could take anywhere from four hours to eight hours. It took seven-plus hours. I was told I might wake up to a colostomy. I woke up to a drain protruding from my lower left belly region as a result of removing part of my colon. Yet, no colostomy. One year ago today, I was a surgery “virgin”. Today, I am a surgery veteran. One year ago today, the good people of the world were busily getting ready to celebrate the holiday season. One year ago today, I was fighting for my life.
It’s been the shortest, longest year of my life. At times, I still can’t believe this has and is happening to me. I’m quickly reminded as I step out of the shower and see the scar that runs from the tip of my pubic bone to the base of sternum. My reflection in the mirror does not lie. Not only does it reflect my scar, but it also highlights the port that sits just beneath my skin under my right clavicle. I don’t recognize the woman I see in the mirror staring back at me. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the “bravest” one of all? Am I braver than I was a year ago? No. Not really. I’ve just gained much more experience suffering than most people. And, I used to think I knew what suffering was (think endurance running, adventure racing). Now, I look back on my “choice” to suffer through being an athlete and think of it as a privilege. I was blessed because I could. Now, I am blessed because I am alive.
I know what I have is “bad”. Odds are that this disease will take my life much sooner than later. When I let this thought wash over me, I’m not feeling brave. I’m feeling sad. My heart longs for more tomorrows. I want to swim in the sunlight, soak in the world’s wonder, breathe in life’s sweetness. But, mostly, I want to hug and be hugged (and, I’m not a hugger).Why? Is there not a better way to declare that I exist? That you exist? It’s a simple act. No words needed. Yet, so much communicated.
So, watch out. Next time you see me coming, arms extended, get ready for me to invade your personal space. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t hurt. It heals. And, maybe, just maybe, hugging will add joy to our today but also bring us many more tomorrows.