It’s my second-to-last day of the old normal.
Well, that might not be entirely accurate. I think the old normal had a massive brain hemorrhage on December 21, when the possibility that I might have cancer first entered my life, and expired for good on December 26, when I learned that I was definitely dealing with the the Big C. But I don’t want to mourn what I used to have for too long. The new me, the one that will arise from the ashes, surgical scraps and old chemotherapy bags of this experience, will be a better, stronger and happier person than the old one. And she’ll also have way better boobs.
Tomorrow, I have to go to USC’s Department of Nuclear Medicine to get injected with some fluid that’ll make me radioactive and trace the cancer cells throughout my body. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I have to be honest and say that this is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. If I don’t get superpowers out of this, I’m going to sue. C’monnnn, power of teleportation! I got some grad school biz I don’t wanna miss out on!
Speaking of grad school, it looks like there’s a good chance I won’t have to drop out for good. My incredible, amazing, brilliant classmates are willing to put up with my situation and work with me on some awesome projects, so that I won’t have to sit around just dwelling on cancer all day. I really couldn’t be happier about this turn of events, so thanks, guys.
Anyway, I got the all-clear from USC’s pre-surgery exam yesterday, which is good because it means there aren’t any massively obvious tumors in my chest or spine and my bloodwork is more or less normal. The EKG showed my heart is functioning just like it should and everything else in my body seems to be just going about its business. I find it really weird that the rest of my body could be so completely oblivious to the deadly coup going on inside my left breast and possibly armpit, but I guess it’s a good thing, since it means I’m fit enough for general anesthesia and massive chest surgery on Friday morning. Yay(?)!!!
I’ve done my best not to waste extra time dwelling on cancer or surgery, but spending several hours at the hospital getting poked, prodded, scanned and X-rayed made it kind of impossible to ignore. I was in a foul mood leaving the clinic and cried most of the way home. I think it’s important to acknowledge that what’s happening to my body on Friday is permanent: I’ll never again look in the mirror and see the same body, the same breasts or even the same silhouette. This body that carried me through 25 years of happy, loving life will be mutilated beyond recognition. But it’s also important to remember that this is the only way out. There’s no going back, no reset. This is my only option if I want to live. And I really, really want to live.
Sometimes I wonder what it is that makes us want to survive so badly. It’s instinctual, sure, and there’s all the obvious stuff like how much I love my family and friends, how many things I believe myself to be capable of accomplishing, how much I haven’t had the chance yet to see and do and experience. But there are smaller things, too.
Driving down the 110 to stop at Costco and get a massive pizza because I have cancer and I do whatever I want, a song I like came on the radio. I pressed my face against the cool of the window, listening in silence. I’d been in the hospital for hours, and the sun had set while we were there. It was just dark enough to cloak the more remote recesses of the Arroyo Seco Parkway, but the road was still lit by the glow of hundreds of soft red brake lights, dimming and shining like SOS signals. Remember that I’m not really supposed to drive, so I was curled up in the backseat while my parents debated oncology decisions in the front. I shut out their voices and let the song caulk up all the nooks and crannies in my brain where cancer fears haven’t reached. I cried because I thought about all the sounds and songs I’d miss if this unholy disease somehow got the upper hand in this fight. I can’t let that happen. That’s why when Friday morning comes and they put me in that sexy blue shower cap thingee and patterned surgical gown whatsit, I’m going to go in smiling. Me: 1, Cancer: 0.
There is so much beauty, talent and wonder in this world. I’ll never take it for granted again.