“I’ve always been good at remembering numbers. First, it was my phone number, then my address, then my student ID. I’m good at dates, too. My birthday, my mom’s birthday (Friday the 13th…of October!), the day she died, are the days that changed my life. The following is a series of dates and why they stick out. Basically a timeline of my life, and just like a word-a-day desk calendar, I rip each day off and start the next, unaware what is printed just beyond the sudoku.
November 25, 2017
While spending Thanksgiving break with my in-laws, I was disappointed to find I had started my period. My husband and I had just started trying, and I naively thought it would be easy.
So easy, in fact, that I didn’t bring any time-of-the-month accessories, so confident in my fertility or the existence of a drug store nearby. At this point, neither of those facts were being tested so much as my packing skills and my lack of awareness of the inevitable.
Lucky for me, I’ve never been a shy one when it came to nature’s calling, and I summoned my mother-in-law for help. As she unbent what could only be described as a cotton brick from the 1980’s, I began to waddle towards the toilet.
I was blissfully unaware that this would be my last period. Ever.
December 23, 2017
During yoga, while in Uttanasana, staring at my toes, I noticed much darker hair on my big toe. Elated, I rushed home after class to take a pregnancy test.
‘Well, NOW what are we going to do?!’ I exclaimed to my husband as I locked eyes with the two little lines. Thoughts of changing waistlines, changing schedules, and changing diapers whirled in my head. I was in the best shape of my life, about to get a promotion at work, and nowhere near ready for a break. I was still very much a player in the game.
‘Isn’t this what you wanted?’ he asked, unsure how to take my unsureness.
‘Yes, I mean, of course, I did. I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. I am just not sure I am fully ready ready, you know?’
May 30th, 2018
A dimple is not just a dimple. Not on the face, not on the butt, and certainly not on the boob. So as I sat, legs displayed, in all my pregnant glory, I asked my OBGYN to take a look at the small, fingerprint-sized dimple at 10 o’clock on my left breast.
Breasts are clocks in the surgical community. What time is it? Half-past a titty if you ask me.
Anyway, he was alarmed. Someone else was in labor at the same time, but my dimple was cause for concern. He rushed me over to the imaging center.
Here, I walked past twenty-eight aunt Susans to finally take my seat at the end of the waiting room. On the other side of the room. Facing them. With my big preggo belly in that silly sumo wrestler robe. I stuck out. Big time.
After a grueling 1-hour exploration, culminating in a tissue biopsy, I was released to worry under my own supervision.
May 31st, 2018
‘You have breast cancer. I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting to have to give this news,’ my doctor lamented as he began to explain the unexplainable to someone who wasn’t listening.
‘Can you please talk to my husband?!’ I wailed. I handed Glenn the phone before I heard the answer, hung my head in my hands and cried. I sobbed, I think. I’ve never sobbed before. I don’t even weep usually. I cry like a lady and move on. But this was different. I was offended. Shocked and shook. This was absolutely f*cking insane. I’m pregnant. I’m in the airport, for God’s sake. Not sure why it mattered, but I was already past security and I guess I felt like I should be safe. Safe beyond the guards and the drug-sniffing dogs and the reality of my responsibilities. I’m not sure how they found me here. My problems, that is. I’m on vacation.
We got on the plane, hurtled into space and I watched life-like clouds swiftly float by. When Washington, D.C. came into view, I was on the good side of the plane for sightseeing. I pulled out my phone and took pictures. How pretty the world looks from up here, far enough to blur the imperfections and chaos below. Into a kind of murky grey-blue, but still and smooth. Like an oil spill.
June 27th, 2018
First worry: won’t I be hungry? I know that you aren’t supposed to eat before surgery, but I am pregnant and that definitely should count for something. If not for me, allow me food for your own safety. In my defense, the first nurse thought I was here for a C-Section and I threw my water bottle at her. Yeah yeah, I know, I am not supposed to have water either.
After the Styrofoam cup was secured to my breast – a makeshift protective cone sitting atop the protruding metal wire which had just been installed as a guide – I was wheeled to the OR waiting area. My mother-in-law and father barely made it in time to see me be wheeled away again. This time into the great unknown. I cried. Again. It wasn’t unknown. I was completely sober. Most people, non-pregnant people, get some sort of anti-anxiety before surgery, and loopily glide their way into oblivion. I, on the other hand, needed to stay here with the rest of reality until it was GO time.
August 10th, 2018
We enter the hospital for pregnancy induction.
August 12th, 2018
A baby is born. Health, happy, whole. My baby.
September 27th, 2018
I feel like I’m entering some sort of competition, maybe a new summer camp. Chemo is one of those things you hear a lot about but don’t really understand until it’s your turn.
I took a selfie – determined scrunch on my face, dark hair full and straight. Ready to take on the challenge.
November 28th, 2018
I should have rung the bell. I was just in such a hurry to leave. My chemo days are so long and the next three are so short, fuzzy, and foggy from weed and latent Ativan. Due to vanity and bullheadedness, I chose to use a cold cap in an effort to keep my hair. It hurt like hell, added about 3 hours to my trip and didn’t completely work. To this day, my most severe PTSD episodes stem from this experience.
I don’t remember anything else about the time I spent getting chemotherapy. My husband came, so did my dad. I watched things on my laptop, I slept, and I ate free cookies. I made friends with people who I didn’t recognize during their following visit. In between chemo appointments I made the most of the time, resting, shopping, sitting, waiting.
I was supposed to have one more session. I didn’t make it. The side effects were mounting and my patience was waning. My doctor agreed. I can stop. I do not have to go back. I just wish we would have known. That bell always winked at me from the end of the hallway. Mine for the dinging.
June 4th, 2019
Four months out of chemo, I’m waiting for the results of my first scans. They aren’t really scans. It’s a mammogram and a blood test. But I know the result already. I saw it on the screen. The large dark shadowy mass on the screen, looking down at me as I lay with my head cocked to one side.
Cancer is insidious and a never-ending disease. My body has been penetrated by an intruder who had to be forcibly removed. Through surgical, chemical and radioactive means. Think about that. We had to literally zap the thing out of me. How do I know it’s really gone, then? How does anyone?
So to say I was skeptical of these ‘tests’ and their ‘measurements’ is an understatement. As my oncologist explained the blood test to me and the information floating deftly over my head, my husband could tell it wasn’t sinking in.
‘What, what’s wrong sweetie? She’s saying good things!’ he pleaded.
‘I just want someone to tell me I’m okay!’ I announced, unaware that this was what I had wanted all along.
‘You’re okay. Yes, you are okay,’ my oncologist said, slightly relieved that this was all I wanted to hear.
I melted into a puddle, this time of relief. The journey is not over, not by a long shot. I have hormone suppressant therapy, PTSD, and long-term side effects from chemo to contend with, but I’m out of the thickest of woods. For now.
Every 6 months, I have another set of scans, some of which actually are scans like MRI’s. And every six months, I am told that I am okay. I am good to go. I can pass go.
I don’t have to remember any more dates. I can celebrate anniversaries. My cancer-free anniversary, my son’s birthday, and all the other days that are easy for me to remember.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meg Schweitzer of Delray Beach, FL. You can follow her journey on Instagram or on her blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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