I'm getting used to the idea of cancer, to the diagnosis and all the new fears and questions it brings. I roll the words around in my head experimentally: I have cancer. I am a person who has cancer. I am fighting cancer.
After living my entire life - quite literally - in fear of a cancer diagnosis, I'm a little surprised at my reaction.
The earliest memory I have of being scared of cancer is when I was twelve years old, and convinced myself that the stomach pains I had been having meant I had stomach or pancreatic cancer. I spent two weeks living in utter fear, my arm clasped across my mid-section, convinced the end was near.
Those who know me the best have heard me confess my private fear of cancer over the years. It became something of a joke, really. "Stay away from Dr. Google," my friends would warn if I complained of a headache or other ailment. "You don't need any encouragement to worry too much."
Now it's here - a cancer diagnosis - and I'm strangely peaceful. There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful, which helps. I will know more in the coming days, after consults with oncologists and more tests, but early signs indicate that my prognosis is good.
I go about my day, help with homework, read to the kids, make jewelry, take naps. Every now and then the knowledge that I have cancer will jump into my head, like a dirty little unwanted monkey dropping out of the sky into my arms. The monkey will hang on me for a while, drape itself across my back or cling to my arms, making me feel sluggish and slow. Finn will ask me to play a game with him, and I can feel myself mentally shifting my monkey from arm to arm, trying to summon the energy to act as if nothing is wrong, that there is no monkey there, that Momma is fine.
The monkey gets in the way of loving my kids, of being fully present for them. The times I am the most frightened are when I tumble into their eyes and think: no, no. I need to be here. For a long time. I feel myself pull back from them: don't love me too much, kids. I have cancer.
But I know that's just the monkey, whispering in my ear, trying to get me to succumb to fear.
I will not.
I put the monkey down, because I need those arms to wrap around my children, to play games, read books, to laugh and love in the moments that are right in front of me.
The cancer diagnosis has honed my world to a fine point, but to my surprise it's not all about fear. Not even close. The useless, petty concerns of life drop away in an instant, and a deep appreciation for what really matters becomes crystal clear.
As we were drifting off to sleep last night, my husband mumbled in my ear: "It's Thanksgiving week. What are you thankful for?"
I thought a moment, and then whispered, "Everything." And I am, really and truly, thankful for all I have, for all the amazing people in my life, for my incredible little family.
I never, ever thought I could get a cancer diagnosis and feel so damn grateful. And lucky.
I have my moments when the monkey takes over, when I lose myself to sadness and fear. I crumple to the floor in tears, thinking about how unfair it feels. I have thoughts of 'why me?' and 'why now?' I let them come, pour out of me in cleansing sobs.
The reality is: Why not me? Why not now? It's my turn, and I'm ready.
This post is part of Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary's link-up, Just Write. To join in, click here: