I’ve purposely been vague about marking the date that I was first diagnosed last October(ish) in 2013(ish). In the cancer world, the diagnosis date is known as the “cancerversary.” And while I’m not intentionally knocking those who have acknowledged theirs, I’m not in that same boat. Why? Because I see no reason to celebrate, memorialize, acknowledge this date as significant in my life. What do I have to gain from marking this date in my mental and emotional calendar?
I remember that day very clearly. It was a Tuesday. Like every mom I know I was smack dab in the middle of sherpa time: shuttling my crew of three to various activities all over Marin (#drivingalloverkingdomcome….right RC?). After my annual mammogram in February 2013, they had asked me to come back in 6 months to check something out they were sure was normal, but “just in case.” So like any rule follower, I diligently made the appointment for September to get another mammogram. This mammogram revealed 2 abnormalities – one of which was the one they identified 6 months prior, and a new one. (That was the one that turned out to be the cancerous tumor…go figure). The next step was to undergo two different kinds of biopsies to get a more accurate reading of the two growths. So there I was on a Tuesday. Waiting for the results of Friday’s needle core biopsy and 1 day after Monday’s stereotactic biopsy. (Due to scheduling constraints, they could not do the two back to back, unless I wanted to wait three weeks out. I did not.)
Like any mom who’s guilty of dabbling with enabling her children when they forget things – You forgot your trumpet? Lunch? Homework? Baseball cleats? Sure I’ll bring them to you! – I was not quite finished with the mission that required me to pick up the guys from school in Larkspur, take them to baseball in Terra Linda, drive back to Corte Madera for said forgotten cleats, and return back to Terra Linda when I stopped for a moment to answer the home phone when it rang at approximately 5:05 pm.
I remember the shock, sharp pain, momentary loss of breath that I immediately felt upon hearing the words “It’s malignant” followed by an adrenaline rush which promptly pushed me into asking a myriad of questions – how big, what’s next, who do I call, how quickly can we take care of this. I remember that after all of this – taking in the severity of the news, scribbling down my notes from the phone call, calling M and my mother, I still had to – OMFG – take the cleats to Terra Linda where an 11-year-old boy who didn’t yet know his mom had cancer and who’s biggest worries were the absence of these cleats.
Which I did.
How I managed to drive back to Terra Linda, deliver the cleats, make small talk with the other parents, and watch the rest of their game, I’ll never know. So much of what I was feeling was raw and unformed at this time.
So instead of marking the milestone of that fateful Tuesday – I prefer to acknowledge a different date in my CJ – November 14th, 2013. That was the date that the tumor was surgically removed from my breast, the date that I had no more cancer growing inside of me, and the date that my recovery and my journey as a survivor could officially begin. That is the date I want to remember. And celebrate! And offer gratitude to the friends and family who pinch hit for us: driving kids to school, walking the Intern, dropping off meals, and so on and so on.
I can’t possibly predict what the future of my CJ holds – and I would be lying if I were to say that fear doesn’t fill my mind frequently – but on the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar, Yom Kippur, I’m trying to find a place of acceptance. Wish me luck. And Happy New Year!