It was one year ago – today (figuratively speaking) when my world was turned upside down. I remember the blood rushing from my head, the feeling of nausea, and words spinning so frantically that nothing was audible. Well, almost nothing. I do recall quite clearly Dr. Dodge’s, my gynecology oncologist, proclamation, “You have cancer”. I do recall, also, “It is extensive.” Then, “bla- bla-bla”, followed by, “But I can help you.”
When I think back to that morning, one year ago today, I get a very clear vision of Kevin and I sitting in that room at the Royal Victoria Hospital as though we are all in a play – and I am currently a spectator. The scene is frozen in time like a snap shot. No one is moving. It’s like we are all paralyzed. The door is closed. Dr. Dodge is leaning in towards Kevin and I while perched on the edge of his stool. Dr. Singh, my chemo-therapist, is sitting beside him with her head down as though she doesn’t want to make eye-contact lest the bad news were to be made worse. Standing beside her, but just slightly behind, is Candy – my nurse. They all watch Kevin and I. We are holding hands. I am in disbelief. I have no idea what Kevin looks like. The mood is somber. The lights are dim. We are all engaged in this very intimate moment of what seems to be “life and death”. Yes. We are all frozen. The only movement that I recall is when Dr. Dodge folds his hands together in front of him – fingers entwined with one another, leans forward, and speaks. I know there were white coats. I know there were eyes – all looking at me. What were they thinking they would see? What were they prepared to do? How did they think we would respond? I wonder.
I really don’t remember leaving. Sometimes I think we stayed there forever. Certainly the fear I felt left an indelible tattoo on my soul. It changed me. I was smeared. I was derailed. I was disabled. I was human.
How is it possible that that day should ever be considered to be nothing less than horrific? Yet, here I am, here we are, one year later and I consider that day to be the turning point for my new life. I was given the news that I had Stage 4 ovarian cancer, yet it was that very “news” that saved me. I had been living, blissfully unaware that that disease was quietly and slowly suffocating the life right out from underneath me. Today – I consider that day, today – one year ago – to be nothing less than a miracle.
Somehow, Kevin got us home. I suspect we drove. We had to – I simply remember nothing of that exodus from the hospital. I do remember wondering how we would tell the kids. I do remember Kevin asking if we may want to decide on a strategy before we went home. All I wanted to do was to get home as if things would normalize, settle down, become safer when we got home.
Of course, Kevin’s mom was the first to hear the news as she was standing in the kitchen. I don’t remember what happened. I don’t remember what we said. I do remember the tears and the hug. I do remember when Katya burst through the door and screamed, no, accused me of having cancer. She had seen the cars home in the middle of the afternoon and knew of the appointment. “You have cancer! Don’t you!! It’s cancer! Isn’t it!” Her words cut through my soul and left me bleeding. I ached for her. I ached for me – I ached for my family, my friends. How could I do this to them? I was so, so, so sorry. Our lives were about to change – and it was like it was my fault. I was to blame for their forthcoming pain.
Eventually, Kevin and I shared the news with our eldest boy, Ben. It was almost unfair to call him when he was so far away from home. He had just left to begin his school year at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay – 16 hours away from home! I don’t remember the conversation – I think I was numb. I was so riddled with guilt as though it was my fault that I had allowed the cancer to grow. We told our youngest boy, David, when he came home from school. Again – I have no memory. I think I was spent by then. In fact, the rest of the day doesn’t exist in my memory. I have nothing. I have nothing – until I remember laying in bed that night wondering what the hell happened? “Is this what it feels like to die? What do I do next?” I was awake most of the night wondering if I would ever sleep again.
One year ago today, my world was flipped, shattered, broken.
Today, I thank God for that day. From those pieces I have built a life that is rich with family, friends, and the love we share. Today, I have a life for which I am grateful. I see the morning sun. I feel the wind. I smell the fall leaves. I smile. I laugh. I cry too. Today, I am thankful the gifts I have been given. I embrace the sunset – anticipate another morning and reflect on all the goodness. Dare I think that I will see another spring? Could I be so bold? Dare I think that Kevin and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage this coming year, that I will see my children grown and settled (in their own ways)? To plan for the future is risky. The mortality rate for stage 4 is not good. This I know – it is my reality check. It is my remind to live now.
One year ago today – my head was yanked out of the quicksand of work, worry, and meaningless ambition, into which it had been so deeply buried. There is no question that cancer is a bitch. I have learned to live with it, walk with it, and to have a healthy respect for it.
But – I also live with hope. I am hopeful that medicine will help prolong my days, give me quality of life, allow me to continue to enjoy my family and friends. I am hopeful that my husband and I will grow old together – that the best is yet to be. Jason Dodge told me, “I can help you.” He kept his promise.
I hope, by writing this blog, I can help you – to live deeper, to embrace life, to have hope.
One year ago today was the birth of my new life.