One year ago yesterday I was meeting my oncologist for the first time. Sarah had just flown in to go with me to the appointment. The doctor examined me and said, based on all the other info he had so far, he didn’t think it was cancer - 75-percent chance it’s not cancer, he said. Looks like we’ll be able to do this laparoscopically; you may be back at work within two weeks. (Someone asked me recently if he was saying this just to make me feel better. Absolutely not - he really thought it was going to go a different way. Don’t be mad at him. In the end, it’s that doc and his team who have gotten me this far.)
One year ago today, Sarah and I went to the hospital. We sat in a waiting room, quietly. I got the IV. They nurse suited me up in a strange fitted blanket with a heater built in - something out of a 1950’s imagination of the future. The anesthesiologist walked through the door. Sarah held my hand and we joked about “the forgetting drug” as the doctor loosed it into my IV. When they started wheeling me out of the room and the lights moved above me, I asked, Is it better to keep my eyes open or closed? Closed, the anesthesiologist said. Definitely closed.
I feel compelled to write what I now know happened in the O-R, and the moment I woke up, and then what came next and next and next until I’ve spilled out all the moments, but that isn’t for right now. What I can still barely think about are those phone calls that Sarah had to make, alone in the waiting area. The people I love on the other end of the line. (I wonder now what we’d been thinking - that it was going to be ok, I guess, that the calls would be good news, relief.)
This writing feels very somber and I feel very somber about the memory, about the truth of it all, but here is another truth: It was one year ago, and today I feel, physically, pretty close to fine. And at my last scan, everything looked fine. Sure, there is still a port in my chest, and we’re still waiting and watching, and the way I think about so many things is changed for good, and there is still so much uncertainty and loss and all of that. But things always change and there is always uncertainty and there is always loss. I’m back to doing just about anything I liked to do before, and feeling pretty good about it. In everyday life, people can look at me and not even know what happened. I’m somehow a year - a weird, surreal, horrific, beautiful, terrible year - later, mostly just regular folk again.
I thought about letting this anniversary pass without comment, but what I really want is to say thank you again. Thank you for coming to stay with me. Thank you for your time and your love and your travel and your cooking and shopping and phone calls and money and prayers and for holding my hand and thinking of me and sending me cards and flowers and letters and coming over just to talk to me and mailing me books and movies and clothes and hats and watching me quake and break down and come back to life. It’s a different life, but I hope to make it a good one.
I seriously love you guys. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.