I woke up to the sound of the cardinal chirping just outside my bedroom window. It’s call is quite distinctive. It seems that bird has found its “sweet – singing- spot” as it sits there in the wild mulberry tree almost every morning to sing. I have my own private show-case in that tree outside my window.
The tree itself was a volunteer from the domestic weeping mulberry bush that died the year after my family moved into this house. We cut down the dead branches in the fall and left the stump. The next spring, there were shoots coming from the bottom and for kicks we left them grow to see what would happen. Those shoots eventually turned into branches and grew to form a beautiful antique mulberry tree. Each spring, the tree offers white mulberries to the birds that swarm to feast in it. They squawk at each other, chase each other away, fly in, fly out, and entertain me all the while. I love that tree – that tree that sprang back to life. It refused to give up. I refused to chop it down.
I often think that cardinal must be Dad coming back to check in on me. He told me he wanted to come back as a bird. On the other hand, it may be Mom as she loved cardinals. They were, in fact, her favorite bird of all time followed closely by blue jays. Blue jays were beautiful, but they had attitude problems and their song was more of a screechy command. And so, she preferred the cardinals.
Dawn was just beginning to break when I got out of bed. The sky was filling with shades of read. I was so relieved that my Saturday morning walks with Barb were now going to begin – finally – in the light of day. It is so much easier to get up when it is light. The dark of winter is simply not inviting. I wondered how I would break the news of my “lump” to Barb. I seemed to be getting better at telling people as I go. It’s almost as if I feel more comfortable with it myself. I refuse to tell people to not worry as I have no right to tell people how to react. Yet, what is the point of worrying. It is either cancer, in which case I will receive treatment, or it is not.
“I’m going to order you a CT and biopsy, Stacey”, announced my oncologist last week when I asked her to check out the lump that I had discovered on my groin. “Whatever it turns out to be – we will make a treatment plan for it. We will work through this together.”
How odd that I had just realized only two months ago that I had a “team” of people at RVH who had become my life-coaches, my cheer-leaders, my assistants. It had never dawned on me that I may just be working with these people for the rest of my life. With an 80% recurrence rate, it was likely that my cancer would return. I thought I would be less capable of coping than I was. I thought I’d be more devastated. I thought I would not be able to be strong. I have no idea what it was that afforded me this courage, but I feel strong. Is it because I have faith in my team of doctors and nurses? Is it because I know I came back from Stage 4 to enjoy one full year of great health? Hard to say.
My CA is up from 14 to 27. The “red flag” is raised at 35 – but I’m trending up. Still, I must have caught things early – in good time? Finding the balance to “live with cancer” is tougher than I had imagined. But I can still live and that’s the most important thing. I will live through the diagnosis. I will live through the treatment and I will leave through the recovery. The latter had proved to be the most challenging, oddly enough.
I feel calm. My main concern is to be sure that my family is supported through this. David’s volleyball coaches know and have assured me they will take good care of him – next I need to talk to his teachers. Katya has good friends and has agreed to talk to my social worker. She is a smart cookie and has found her own resources in the past. Ben is well equipped in Thunder Bay and is an “expert” in advocating for himself when he needs help. Thank God. Kevin? Well, he and I will work through this one together. It is easier for me than it is for my family to go through this second round. But I intend to gather support around my family – for my family.
Who knows what tomorrow has in store for us? A week ago I was thinking about going back to work in September, travelling to BC and Mexico in May, and Iceland in August. Today – I have no plans. I have to wait. And that’s okay – short term planning means not having to cancel plans. That’s easier on everyone. My mantra has, once again, become, “let’s play it by ear and see how things go”.
Now – off to get David’s hair cut and to spend some time with him. I feel so lucky to be able to do that. I had a fantastic summer last year, filled with activity and family time. I have no regrets. I will stay the course and try to continue to focus on family first once again.
The cardinal has flown the coop by this time. The tree is empty of occupants. Nonetheless, I know they will be back tomorrow morning. And when that song begins, once again, I will listen and appreciate every note.