Disclaimer: While WordPress shows me as having written this on January 22, it’s really just barely 11 pm here in Vancouver, on January 21. So I didn’t mess up my birthday!
“Estas son… las mananitas…” are the first words I heard this morning. They came in the form of a sweet Mexican birthday song from Sammy. Today is my first birthday with cancer. I did some cancer-things this morning, like a blood test and then an oncology appointment. For those who are wondering, the oncology appointment was about three million times better than the last one– I only saw Dr. G, she’s going to gather more information to help me make the radiation decision, and she’s going to facilitate a plastic surgeon appointment with the plastic surgeon I want (who is way backed up and I don’t have an appointment until April) before the chemo is over, and she has some solutions and ideas on the weird foot-pain front. So, all is well.
The rest of the day was luxury. Writing in a cafe, even feeling energized and focused as I worked on final edits of my methods chapter. A hot pink iphone buzzing with happy birthday text messages from friends near and far. A nap in Sammy’s arms, with the kitties snuggled under the blankets. Hot, sweaty, familiar yoga. Cards full of glitter, homemade honey and bulbs, trader joes snacks and head scarves all stuffed in colorful packages waiting for me in our mail slot. Cancer certainly increases the amount of mail I get by tenfold, and receiving packages and cards and notes and envelopes full of glitter always makes me smile. More writing and early grey tea with steamed almond milk. Dress up and a polka-dotted dress for dinner on the hundredth floor. Sangria as our restaurant slowly turned in a circle as we gaped at the city full of tiny lights. Cheesecake and dreams for the future.
It was luxury because I felt good. I feel functional. I can think clearly. I can taste the sweetness of this kind of life, where everything feels good. Luxury because I didn’t think about the impending days of horrific illness that will begin Thursday afternoon. Luxury because I could stomach wine. Luxury because I got to spend the weekend with one of my favorite people ever, M. Luxury because Sammy and I could hold hands throughout the whole dinner. Luxury because I couldn’t decide if I should wear the short blue/blonde wig or the long deep, curly red wig.
Cancer makes you stop and think. Cancer makes you wonder, with each big day passing, what it feels like to do something for the last time. Cancer makes me hug my friends a little longer, cancer makes me hold Sammy’s hand a little tighter as we fall asleep, cancer makes me think a whole lot harder about what I want out of my life, however long, on this planet.
As I embark on this next year of my life, I hope I can be present in each moment, even the boring ones. Boredom allows us time to think, and even, time to not think, time to just allow feelings and thoughts and ideas to percolate, to swim through the body, to find a place to take up residence and grow in new and creative ways. I’m looking forward to being present as I finish my Ph.D. and explore ways to sustain myself as an academic and writer, be it as a professor or otherwise.
Tonight as my birthday comes to a close, I also want to say thank you to the many of you have sent texts, hats, earrings, flowers, cards, socks, cookies, tea, well-wishes, snacks, emails, notes, and all other forms of energy and love across the planet to me. Your love and energy is really important to me and I cherish all the support as it comes. Please send lots of good vibes Thursday afternoon, when I have another chemo, and through the weekend, which I’ll spend trying desperately to recover.