I Love You to London and Back…

We had plans to go to Europe for honeymoon, following our original July wedding plans; but sometimes the universe intervenes and plans change. Planning a trip and replanning a wedding seemed daunting when I first learned we would need to in the beginning of August, but all the pieces fell together nicely and somewhat surprisingly. The wedding planning has been ongoing and I am enjoying the process, despite theknot wedding planner app badgering me about my checklist (mostly in my head because there are still so many boxes to check off). I was able to get most of the big things done, like rebooking a venue, flowers, securing the photographer, engagement photos, cake – always cake, and a few other things, before we flew across the Atlantic.

Most people hem and haw about travel plans, bicker about money, and fuss over the details. We absolutely would have been that couple if we still had the year to plan it. Instead we just went for it, thanks to our generous parents who offered to help us pay for wedding and honeymoonin’ things. (We really appreciate it more than you know! <3) There was no time to banter about flights or hotel accommodations. We booked a package on Expedia and hoped for the best. I should note that Josh has been to London before and knew whereabouts he wanted to stay, which turned out not to be the exact right hotel but was even better. So in a matter of four days we had travel plans and wedding plans.

We left for London via Logan on a Virgin Atlantic flight overnight. I had never internationally traveled, so it was all a new experience for me. We arrived at the airport early as advised by the TSA, with our appropriately packed luggage carrying the exact amount of liquids allowed. Have you ever really looked at the TSA website of what is permissible and not permissible, because if you are in need of a laugh you should. Josh and I had to look up what some of the items I could pack in my checked bag actually were. You’d be surprised! Anyhow we got through security, where of course I had to go through the scanner, but not Josh and I was dazzled by the duty free shop lights. I didn’t buy anything but we did go grab drinks and a shrimp cocktail, why not start vacation off right? We got on the plan and didn’t really sleep, but who cares we were heading to London. Josh might have cared a little because there was a screaming child next to him who cried much of the six hour flight. We arrived at Heathrow the next morning (five hour difference) and took a hundred dollar cab to our hotel, where they immediately offered welcome wine and I fell love at first sight with London or at the very least the County Hall Marriott.

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Our room wasn’t ready so we went off exploring, which was what I loved about our trip. Aside from our planned Paris day, we had no real plans. We knew where we wanted to go but no tight schedule as to what day or time or anything so restrictive. We just wandered about Westminster, getting our first taste of fish and chips at a floating pub on the Thames before heading back to our hotel for a relaxing evening. We finally checked in around 3, napped and went downstairs for a nice meal. By nice meal I mean the most expensive dinner for two I have ever dreamed of having, but well worth it complete with filet, English chips complete with mini mayo and ketchup jars, delicious greens, tasty drinks, and the best waitress ever. She was new to London, arriving just a month earlier from the Netherlands. She liked so much she bought us a glass of champagne to toast our honeymoon and came over to chat every time she saw us in the bar over the next week. Day one was in the books and it was magical, or at least I thought so when I looked out over the glistening lights on the Thames and the Lit up London skyline of Westminster Palace, Big Ben (even under construction) and the glow of the London Eye.

Monday and Tuesday were spent marathon walking, literally. That first day we walked thirteen miles from the London Eye to Westminster Abby, where I was able to see the latest addition of Stephen Hawking and the burial site of famous Queens including Elizabeth I, to Kensington, where I say Diana’s palace, a Christo installation along the Serpentine, numerous sculptures and historic monuments, ate a restaurant donned in flowers inside and out, to Knightsbridge, where I saw people wearing more money than I make in a year at Harrods, and back – well into a cab that took us the last few miles back. It was everything I had hoped it would be, especially after we sampled our own personal lemon merengue pie with gold leaf, curtesy of our new favorite waitress. Tuesday we headed down the Southbank stopped by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, played with a plague rat (puppet only), and spent the majority of the day at the Tower of London where I got to see the sparkling crown jewels, was startled by a raven, saw Henry VIII’s cod piece, and walked through the last known location of the kidnapped princes, and fell in love with history all over again. We walked back through the financial district over the Millennial footbridge and ate Founders pub before heading back to the hotel bar for a nightcap.

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Wednesday was our planned Paris day. We booked a tour through Golden Tours and needed to be at St. Pancras station bright and early to get the Eurostar out to Paris. We ironically bumped into another American couple from our hotel on the way over. The tour provided a day at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre along with a bus tour of some of the historic sites. We were greeted at the Gare du Nord by our tour guide waving a flag who quickly ushered us by potential pickpockets to the Mercedes Tour bus. At that point I was still enamored by the idea of Paris, until we drove a little way and I immediately noticed a tent city and the real life overcrowding issues Paris is experiencing. The architecture was breathtaking, it was still after all Paris. I was elated to see the Arc de Triumphe, the square where the guillotine once stood (history nerd), and of course that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower wasn’t quite what I envisioned but still an architectural feat and the views from the observation levels were extraordinary. Dinner at the 58th Tour Eiffel was phenomenal. The Louvre was less inviting because it has become over commercialized and is milling with millions of people it seems all rushing towards the Mona Lisa. It was however something I won’t soon forget, because I did get to stand within twenty feet of the great works of da Vinci and even nearer to the gorgeous Venus de Milo. But I will admit I was happy to get back to London. I should note we met a fabulous older couple from the states also on our tour who we spent much of the day with. They had some great marriage advice and were wonderful travel companions.

By Thursday we were beat. We enjoyed our daily hotel breakfast equipped with my favorite silver teapot and sugar cubes, spoke with concierge about tickets for a Les Mis and went to the Aquarium located in our hotel. Admittedly after the aquarium we napped before getting for our night out in the Theater district. We took a cab to Piccadilly Circus, frequented St. James Tavern and headed to the Queen’s Theater for Les Mis. Now I had watched the movie but it pales in comparison to the live musical. We had six row seats, thank you Concierge, and it was incredible. The theater itself was gorgeous, the performance was riveting, and in that moment I couldn’t have been more in love with Josh or our honeymoon. It had really been an amazing few days so far. We walked back to the hotel and decided that Friday and Saturday would be exploring days by bus and boat rather than foot.

We took a bus to Madame Toussaud’s on the other side of town. It was definitely a touristy experience that I enjoyed and Josh humored, even though a number of the photos feature him and attractive wax celebs. We were entertained by our bus tour guide who mostly talked to us, since we were the only crazies on the upper deck during the rain, and showed us humorous Trump videos and tried out Bostonian accents. It was a nice day riding around London. We went to Borough’s market which was an amazing experience. It had great energy and great food. I learned that I love ciders while in London. We hit up Carnaby street and ate at a small pub later that night. We were trying to get as much in as possible. We even stumbled on an animal rights rally.

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Saturday was our last full day in London. We spent the morning at the National Gallery which is one of the eighth most visited museums in the world. Their collection was nothing short of impressive. They had great works by all the big names in the Renaissance and the impressionists. Even Josh was impressed. From there we went on a City Cruise boat tour to the Prime Meridian in Greenwich and got to take in some different sights along the riverbank. We walked back down the Southbank later that evening for dinner at the wharf, where I learned prawn still come with the face (Josh just laughed) and hopefully won some good luck by being pooped on by a pigeon. It was still a great last date night in London.

On Sunday we had breakfast for the last time and said goodbye to our fabulous hotel and London. It was an epic honeymoon. We flew home exhausted and happy!

Since then I staged a scavenger hunt for my sweet goddaughter’s birthday, started school, went to garlic fest, found my wedding dress, was showered with love by my friends and family, and am just enjoying these busy days.

 

 

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Bittersweet

As a human people we convince ourselves into believing that there is always more time to do anything, to do everything. That we can make plans and they will work out just as we planned them. The very idea of it it comforts us and wraps in a false sense of security, because in reality the time to do what your heart desires is now. And plans fall apart all. the. time. There is no tomorrow that is guaranteed for anyone and things change. While we know that, there is no easy way to accept it or not get flustered by it. Let’s get real I have plenty of wasted days logged in, where my focus was more on the mundane than the marvelous. But if I know anything I know that you need to do at least one thing every. single. day. for you, to nourish your soul. The balancing act that is life is bittersweet to say the very least.

And sometimes everyone’s life is more bitter than sweet. I recently learned that my bone marrow transplant was not the cure for my Hodgkins Lymphoma, because it, like me, is stubborn as hell. And after fifteen months, my scanxiety fears were confirmed, and I have relapsed. It’s getting easier to say. Initially I called and texted my closest family and friends the single word alone. Relapse. I just had nothing else to offer. I was, am, completely devastated – but if I’m being really truly honest with myself I’ve known for quite sometime. Hodgkins and I are intertwined in a way that can be soul crushing if I let it, fortunately I have no intention of doing that. I took a day or two to wrap my mind around the weight of it all, cried it out, admitted to myself that this time around I am really f****ing pissed, and slightly terrified. The look on my parent’s faces and my fiancee’ was more than I could handle. Thankfully I have been blessed with an amazing family (mine and Josh’s) and an equally incredible group of friends. So than I knew I needed to rally; I may not know God’s plan for me but I know my plan for myself. Life. I am fierce! I will always love harder than most and choose happiness first. So rather than get bogged down in my bitterness and the what ifs, I – we, my family and friend – jumped into action. Within a couple of days I turned my bitter into sweet.

Josh and I have decided to honeymoon first, after all you never really know someone unless you travel with them. And we are jet setting across the Atlantic to Europe for a week to take in the sites of some of the greatest cities of all time. I won’t bore you with the details and until we return, but excited doesn’t even come close to covering it. We have also decided to say our I dos in a small intimate wedding ceremony in the fall. So we have been frantically planning a trip and undoing and redoing a wedding. Thank God for my Maid of Honor, bridesmaids, parents, in-laws, and best girl friends – because it’s really coming together in rapid speed. And it will be SWEET!

I will deal with Hodgkins some time after all of that, for now I intend to live my best life and fight like hell to hang on to it after that. I have options, despite having had a transplant. Medical science has come along way in the nearly five years since Hodgkins and I first met. I have faith in that and God’s plans for me. My current plan is to retry the immunotherapy – pd-1. Last time, it gave me a durable remission for nine months but caused a host of adverse side effects. The goal is to mitigate those as best as possible. And it’s very possible they don’t occur because after all, I’m German now. I have an immune system that hasn’t ever been treated for Hodge. The science behind it all is tricky. All things I’ll relay when it gets closer. For now I’m packing for Europe, planning a wedding, and prepping for my classes in the fall. I’m too busy to be bitter about my cancer. I’m taking advantage of now. THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR!

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Great Expectations

At the beginning of the school year in September I always have such great expectations for my teaching and for my new students, but I quickly realize by the end of September that I need to adjust my plans for myself and them. Come June, I have great expectations for my summer, one I frequently hope is filled with adventure and books and productivity (trying to get all the shit done I wasn’t able to do during the school year like clean out the closets, organize the gift wrap, update the address book, landscape the yard, finally throw out everything that lives in the junk drawer). By day two of summer vacation, I’m pretty certain books and adventure win out over productivity. At the start every new endeavor, I have all of these great expectations of how it is going to change my life and most of the time it really doesn’t (especially if that endeavor has anything to do with committing to Whole 30 or a consistent exercise routine – chocolate always seems to win out). I think this is probably true for most people, we start off with great expectations and quickly realize we need to be ok with life’s reality instead. It has taken me a very long time to come to terms with this concept (put in mathematical terms): Great Expectations / Reality = Your Best Life!

I recently finished the young adult fiction book The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (It looked interesting and like most books when I start reading them, I have great expectations. For the record this one didn’t disappoint.) and the following dialogue really resonated with me:

“It’s too much…”

“What is?”

“Life is. How can you have such pain and such triumph…all mixed together?”

I often wondered why the universe could be so cruel one moment and so glorious the next. I feel like I spent one summer many years ago having this philosophical debate with myself because the universe kept putting me in a less than ideal circumstance or so I thought, now I realize that it provided a great life lesson that may have ultimately led me to Josh (or at the very least recognizing what I didn’t want in an adult relationship. I was a slow learner in that regard.). Much of The Inquisitor’s Tale leads to the idea that we are part of a much grander world, and while we may not understand the events that unfold before us we have to trust that they are what was meant to happen. That sounds a lot like faith to me. And that’s sometimes hard to swallow. It’s hard to have faith when you have been offered no guarantees. I think I have been struggling with this some over the last few months (and maybe part of why I have been absent from my writing). I am someone who has to figure things, wrap their head around them, in order to make sense of it. As far as I know my transplant has been nothing short of a miracle – I’m alive! I’m happy! I’ve had very little complications thankfully. And still I’m skeptical, every little thing inserts doubt. For example, my allergies (which I never had before) decided to rear causing some odd symptoms and led me down a path of constant neck touching. To the point where I was secretly trying to check Josh’s neck nodes for comparison. It turned out it wasn’t as secretive as I thought and he was not a willing participant in my crazy game! I have terrible scanxiety for my upcoming appointment at the Farber on Thursday and that gives me normal anxiety that my usual scanxiety is some intuition. Vicious cycle.  And then I realize it’s all because of some expectation I have for myself.

I’m not advocating for not having expectations, but I have to admit that one of our greatest disappointments in life is that it hasn’t quite turned out as we expected. That’s a hard truth! And I can attest to that, because the plans I made at 18 were way off course by 20 and completely blown out of the water by 30. Just last week someone asked me if I was okay with the reality of my not being able to have children (transplant made that impossible – which I was made aware of early on with Hodge anyhow) and I was surprised to hear myself say that I was as though I never once had that great expectation. And I really am, a wise and beautiful friend once said to me that “children come into our lives in all forms” and that doesn’t have to be our own. That has held true for me time and time again as I watch my sweet goddaughter take the stage at a recital or her and her brother splash me in the pool or with my myriad of students who confide one thing or another in me or with my handsome boy (he may be a furry and somewhat odd Golden Retriever) but he is mine through and through (even when he hides under the bed because a neighbor let off some fireworks). And I wouldn’t trade a single moment of my life. So I think maybe the old adage about letting your faith be bigger than fears needs to add great expectations too. I’m always surprised that I’m happier not having met my expectations!

I have decided that I may not have written a novel like Great Expectations (yet) but I can do better. So I’ve decided that pretty witty and…. needs to be more than my cancer story. I want it to be a story! Thus, I picked up a novelty writing prompt book and am making plans to use it as a way to keep writing (blogging) consistently while I (as a person, my novel, and life) are under construction!

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Identity Theft

A year ago today, I returned home from the spa (that’s how people refer to a long term stay at a medical facility, right?) I can’t believe that an entire year has passed since then and I’m still discovering so much about myself and the world in which we live. It was all so simple when I was trapped at home for those nine months, on figurative and sort of literal house arrest. I pretty much spent the time at my leisure – taking morning walks with Jax and catching up on reading, writing, drawing, etc. Put it this way, had I been a bit older I like to think I would have qualified for the Red Hat Society. Then January came and with it was the possibility of returning to work and an abbreviated life. It was awesome to hear the “all clear” and once I walked back into the halls of the high school where I work, it was like I never left.

Nearly five months have passed since then and while some things are exactly the way they were pre- transplant others have left me feeling like I’m in an episode of the body snatchers (that’s a thing, right?) I look in the mirror and am not quite convinced that the woman with the thick curly dark hair is me (I’m pretty sure I had fine straight blondish hair for pretty much ever). I’m also not entirely sure of when I entered the world of hot flashes. I’m pretty sure I’ve been living in my own personal summer for months now, so the advent spring was not nearly as exciting for me. Now it just means that my current system of limited clothing, one leg sticking out from under the sheet and constantly flipping to the cool side of the pillow will have little to no impact. On the plus side, I recently applied the patch and my personal summer is more like summering in northern Canada. So figuring out the middle aged thing at thirty is definitely new, despite having just turned one year old based on my new stem cells. (My friends threw me an awesome first birthday party complete with bibs, baby bottles, a smash cake and even a photo booth. It was really awesome and proves how lucky I am. It came on the heels of my real birthday which also brought great celebrations. So clearly, April is my most favorite month – with two birthdays and a vacation week!) But add the body snatcher elements to my new energy level – think the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare and new perspective on life; I’m like a whole new person, a happy person but definitely new.

That must be why someone opted to steal my identity, because who wouldn’t want to be me, right? I found out a week ago that someone stole my identity and bought some stuff. Luckily, I’m one of those crazy people with alerts on everything and found out pretty quickly. I have to say that it has been a hassle to deal with, but in the grand scheme of my life definitely minor. I don’t blame them, my life is pretty awesome! I spent this past weekend showering one of my favorite people with love to celebrate her upcoming nuptials, reconnecting with an old friend who lives across the country, chatting with another friend for hours on the phone, arguing over a comforter set in Target with my fiancee’ (like a real couple, we haven’t had the opportunity to do much of that in this past year other than our long weekend getaway a few weeks ago). My “new” life is as full as my last one, only now the future seems less scary in some ways. That’s not to say that the scars from Hodge have all disappeared because they haven’t, now they just serve as reminders of how far I’ve come. The new me definitely exudes more confidence, looks at the world in awe, (I honestly spent quality time watching a weasel play in the garden at the cancer center today) and makes sure I appreciate everything! So I hope the party that pilfered my identity gets those qualities and not just my money (of which there isn’t a whole lot, so jokes on them).

 

The Friend Connection

As I was catching up on my magazine subscriptions, of which there are so many, I came across an article about how to live longer. The article toted expert advice from “really” old people around the world and what they had to say was profound, comedic, sensible, and sometimes crazy. In other words, it was exactly as it should be. There is no formula that guarantees we get to be one hundred and twenty two like the oldest person on record, even if we do swear by a Mediterranean diet. We could go out and an exercise everyday and focus on low inflammation, heart healthy diet and still not exceed fifty. Life has zero guarantees and that my friend is 100% accurate. Sure people don’t want to think about the fact that we all eventually die, but we are the only species who seems to constantly reflect on that fact. And while it is most definitely true, so what. I still think I’ll pass on Tim McGraw’s vocal wisdom to “live like you were dying” because I think making hasty choices with that in mind is equally as ridiculous as hiding from the possibility. The magazine article didn’t have any definite plans for longevity but suggested that people live longer when they live in a state of happy.  Now that doesn’t mean one should be so optimistic that they overlook potential issues but nor should a person be so anxiety ridden that they stress them selves out to the point of creating issues.

Finding a state of happy isn’t easy, but the article boasted one simple way of doing that and increasing both your life line and laugh lines, make friends. And maybe you don’t need more friends, but then you should nurture the friendships you already have. Cultivate your relationship by keeping in touch, making real plans, going on adventures, be congratulatory when it applies and sympathetic when it’s needed, just be a good friend. I thought about it in my own life and I like to think I work hard to cultivate my relationships in an earnest way, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that I can do better. I can make sure to call that friend from college I haven’t talked to in a few months, send an I was thinking of you note to my bestie in California, shoot a text message to my “almost” sister in law and soon to be maid of honor. I can make sure I check in with my colleague who I rarely see even though we are stationed down the hall from one another. Those are the things that matter. Think about how much happier you are when you are sharing an experience with a friend, or laughing about an inside joke that only you and she or he might understand. The other day, I was watching How I Met Your Mother with Josh (and yes I know we’re behind the times) when Barney referenced Terrence Trent D’Arby and I knew in my soul I had to send one of my best and oldest friends, Tammy, a message to let her know about the reference for reasons only she could understand. And she did and then sent me a message when the show she was watching made a reference several days later. It was meant to be. I love moments like that! I love finding secret messages in my mailbox from a high school friend, turned colleague, stating that she’s happy we are in high school together again. Day made, instantly. The friend connection makes even the worst day bearable so imagine how much better it can make an already great day.

I was thinking about these connections and how they come to be. Some people you happen upon, others you chased from a class once so you could force a meeting just a little quicker (Sorry about that Camille, still glad it happened!), sometimes you meet them at work or through other friends. No matter how it happens those connections matter. My most recent connection has been with my donor. I wrote her a letter of gratitude for saving my life several months ago and thanks to some red tape, I just received her letter five months after she sent it, but so what. How awesome is that?! I opened the mail and there was this beautifully penned letter, hand stamped with a gorgeous bird on it. She clearly has my affinity for stationary, which is an added bonus. I learned that she is just an incredible human, which I already knew but now I’m sure of it and I look forward to cultivating that friendship. I already purchased some new stationary to write back. I look forward to the day when I can someday say thank you in person for giving me a second chance at a life I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We are infinitely connected.

I like to connect with people and finding out that it may help lengthen my life makes it even better. Other suggestions were to maintain faith in something, whether that be religious or spiritual or something else. I had a student recently ask my why religion matters and what would happen if it was taken away like Stalin did in Soviet Russia and I said that people would struggle with the absence of hope and find ways to reignite it. I believe that, hope and faith offers solace. It may not fix the world’s problems, of which there are many, but it may offer some comfort to those who believe in it.

So while there is no formula for how to get to be a hundred, I would say that making and keeping friends, having faith in your life, and finding your happy makes for the years you are granted all that much better. I think of Josh’s grandmother who has a social calendar that makes mine look sad. At ninety five, she gets out and walks daily with her furry companion, attends Church services, belongs to a book club, frequents the theater, turns up the volume on the Red Sox, wins pretty much every game of corn hole, still golfs, and sends e-cards and real cards for all sorts of occasions. I think she’s pretty remarkable but more importantly I think she figured out what makes her happy a long time ago. I hope when I’m that age, my social calendar is full and I’m still sharing inside jokes with my favorite people. e781bab51c5b8aa196cfde6b04b6e5a7(1)

 

Life with a hint of Lysol

I prefer to think of myself more as a Kate Spade Live Colorfully kind of girl or perhaps even a touch of Chanel No. 5, but alas the scent that lingers is a hint of Lysol. I only say this slightly in jest, because it really does stay with you. The conditions of returning to work came with an emphasis on avoiding germs, especially in the height of the worst flu epidemics in years. Whatever strain is out there is claiming lives across the country and I am unfortunately at a greater risk for being susceptible to it thanks to my weakened immune system. But there is no way to avoid flu season, not anymore. According to JacquelineHoward, a correspondent for CNN, the CDCreported that while this flu season is similar to that of the Swine Flu craze which occurred in both 2009 and 2014. The primary difference is that forty nine states (excluding Hawaii) have reported spikes in confirmed cases of the flu at the exact same time. The hope is that peak season is upon us but in reality the flue has the potential to last from October to May. So no chance on avoiding people for that long. While this is should be a concern for people in general I have to take precautions a little more seriously than vigilant hand washing. Enter Lysol.

My classroom is like every other teachers’ or at least every teacher who hates blank wall space and a drab color scheme. I spend a good chunk of time in that room, so it needs to be inviting for both me and the students. It’s littered with inspirational messages, fluorescent accents, maps, bumper stickers, informative posters, post cards from historical places, and even historical finger puppets. I promise there is no official puppet show time. I Lysollike to think my classroom always had an odor of knowledge if that’s a thing, thanks to the old and new book smell that lingered in the air. Well not this year. If you were to walk in my room right now it would smell like Lysol. The air purifiers with UV may even tone it down some, but the hint of it is always there. I come in early and turn on the purifiers, which really do make the air quality so much better. One even hooks to my phone, so I can regulate with bluetooth. Technology has really come a long way. I should thank my STEM teacher friends more. The children hand sanitize upon entry and at the end of every day I Lysol the space. If I leave my classroom I wear gloves and a mask in some areas. I like to think I’m getting back to my real life with a hint of Lysol as a reminder of where I’ve been (not that I need one). This is my first step toward normal. I still cannot frequent other public spaces without donning a mask and gloves until the year mark in April. It’s something of a slow start. And I’m happy for it.

I actually told my high school students that it felt like I wasn’t working because I was just so excited to have conversations with people aside from my immediate family and a golden retriever who so rarely replies. They may not feel that way considering I assign them homework and make them do ‘teacher fun’ activities. But for week one they seemed happy to have me back and more than considerate to follow the safety precautions. And maybe someday I’ll market a ‘hint of Lysol’ as a fresh clean smelling parfume.

Coward

“We know the dirty secret: You don’t battle cancer. You don’t fight it. If cancer wants you, it walks into your room at night and just takes you. It doesn’t give a damn how tough you are. The only way you survive is through a mix of science, early detection, health insurance and luck. Courage has nothing to do with it.”

Josh Friedman :It’s O.K. to be a coward about cancer, Time Magazine August 7, 2017

I read this article article several months ago and dog eared it, then ripped from the spine, and more recently scribbled notes on it. I needed to mull it over, process what Josh Friedman, the screenwriter, was actually saying. He is a self proclaimed coward, one who felt utterly betrayed by his body. And to me that makes perfect sense. I too am a coward who felt betrayed by her own body. I was afraid that death would come from me like a scene out of the Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter. (We just watched all seven movies these past few weekends, hence the reference.) It had come for so many before me without any consideration for the incredible human it may have captured. At no point did I wrap my wrists and put on pink boxing gloves and think I will strike back hard and death will retreat. That’s just not a thing. People tell me all of the time how brave I am or how strong, but in all sincerity I got lucky. I say that with certainty because one of the strongest and bravest people I had ever known didn’t make it. And for that I agree with Josh Friedman ” Because when we glorify strength without showing empathy for weakness, we end up with a toxic version of heroism, one that links bravery to goodness and cowardice to getting what you deserve.” No one deserves cancer and the people who don’t survive it are no less brave than those who do.

The ‘battlefield’ of cancer is difficult to navigate. There is no right way to deal for the patient, their loved ones, caregivers, friends, colleagues, etc. and yet it feels like their should be. Like maybe someone needs to write a What to expect when your expecting cancer handbook. One that outlines how each party should respond. What to do or not to do. What to say or not to say. I don’t have those answers. Even in the aftermath, I have absolutely no idea. What I know is that it’s never over. Cancer will forever be part of the life you have. And it may manifest as scanxiety at yearly appointments, ptsd, depression, brain fog, physical disabilities, etc. Or may be a shift in thinking, a new zeal for life. Regardless of the good or bad, it exists. The fear of dying doesn’t just one day disappear. If anything you make peace with it and pray that you have the ‘invisible cloak’ that keeps death from finding you for a very long time.

I think it’s important to say out loud that it’s okay to be a coward about cancer. It’s okay to full fledge panic when you hear those words applied to you. It’s okay that the experience sticks with you. No one else has to understand it. You hope others empathize, but sometimes it’s inconceivable unless it’s happening to you. I think the true test of courage is in your resiliency. Can you face crushing disappointment time and again and still find a way to keep pushing forward? Were you able to be thankful for the life you had even when the future seemed improbable? Those aren’t easy things and I commend anyone whether they have ever had a life threatening illness or not who is able to do that.

I guess I needed to mull over this article to acknowledge that no part of this experience has been without cost. And no part has been without fear. And even so, every single time I hear the lyrics:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song

I want to shout them at the top of my lungs. (Maybe I would have said sing if I wasn’t tone deaf, but I can’t really be sure about that.) But I think it’s important to note that I am no braver or stronger than anyone else. I did what I had to do and thankfully it has worked thus far. I had my nine month scan, with minimal scanxiety attached, and had no evidence of disease or lymphoma progression. I got my first set of vaccines and was cleared to return to work with the understanding that I had to remain vigilant about keeping a distance from sick people and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More on how I accomplish that in the future. I know that I am grateful for my resiliency but I am equally grateful for having an opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually as a result. I can ask for help, something I struggled with in the past. I can tell people no, because I no longer need to please. I can relax. I can love fiercely. I can be a better friend.

So it’s okay to be a coward, it’s okay to fight, it’s okay to be numb, it’s okay to feel too much. It’s up to you. Cancer doesn’t decide.

Humor is necessary when battling Hodgkins Lymphoma at the ripe old age of 32