"Sure," I mumble, glancing at the clock. It's 7:14am; Greta wakes me up at the exact same time every morning.
I swing my legs to the floor, thinking about the day: Greta has a birthday party today, gotta buy a present. Finn needs to bring a donation to school today, have to finish that jewelry order.
Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I pad into the bathroom, splash cool water on my face and reach for my toothbrush. Glancing in the mirror, my stomach does a little flip-flop as my eyes rest on the lump on the left side of my neck. Oh yeah, I think. Cancer.
I shake the thought from my head and finish brushing my teeth without looking in the mirror.
Downstairs it is the usual whirlwind of activity - packing lunches, finding shoes, hats and gloves. The kids pepper me with questions: does the Elf on the Shelf get cold when he flies back to the North Pole every night? How many days until Christmas? Can I have a play date today?
I move effortlessly through the finely choreographed dance that is our mornings, deftly answering questions while finding a stray sneaker under the couch. The familiarity of it soothes me, even as I try to ignore the new, silent soundtrack to my life: will I be able to do all this in a few weeks, after treatment starts?
The kids twirl in the driveway as they wait for the bus; their breath puffing white in the cold. I wrap my hands around my coffee mug, treasuring its warmth. Enjoy it now, comes the unwelcome thought, when you need the feeding tube there won't be any point to coffee anymore.
The bus rumbles to a stop at the end of our driveway, and I wave and shout: "Love you! Have a great day!" like I do every morning. The bus pulls away, and I walk back into the house. Its silence makes me edgy.
I pull a huge load of clean, dry laundry out of the dryer and walk upstairs to fold, grateful for the strength in my body. I'm told I will be very tired. I don't grumble about doing laundry anymore; the normalcy of this small chore feels like a gift.
As I fold the clothes and put them away, my mind wanders to darker thoughts. I try to push them away. Don't go there until you get there, I think, rolling a piece of advice from a member of my cancer support group around in my head. But the darkness persists, poking its unwelcome nose into my day.
This is my new normal, the reality of my days as I wait for radiation and chemotherapy to start next week. I can go for little stretches of time where I don't remember, where life feels like it always did, and then wham - I hit a little speed bump, a thought or fear drops into my head and I remember: cancer.
Eight days until treatment starts, I think. Eight long days of waiting, wondering what it will be like. I start to make a list of everything I need to do to clear my decks, prepare for treatment: firm up the babysitter, type up a schedule of the kids' activities, clear out the freezer, finish up jewelry orders... the list goes on and on, and it makes me feel overwhelmed.
I crumple up the paper and make a new list:
4) Don't go there until you get there
Then, after some thought, I smile and add one more item to the list:
I will enjoy every treat, every warm meal, every cup of coffee, every dessert over this holiday season. I will lose weight on the feeding tube, I will lose my sense of taste for months during and after radiation treatment, so I'm going to wallow in food for the next two weeks.
The panic that was stirring in my gut settles down as I gaze at my list. One moment at a time, I think, just like recovery. I'm only truly miserable when I resist my situation, when I wish things could be different than they are. Accepting something you desperately don't want to be true is hard, but it works. It brings peace of mind, even during the worst of the fear.
I can do this moment, I think. In this moment, I'm okay. Now, on the next one.