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Celebrating Life

       The side effects alone have kept me on my toes — or flat on my back


not for Covid, cicadas, cancer, chemo, and C-Rad radiation protocols, the past months would have been rather boring. And while the cicadas are gone, the rest of these lovely adventures are now part of a legion of gifts that keep on giving. The side effects alone have kept me on my toes — or flat on my back.

Think dizziness, blurred vision, muscle spasms, weakness, headaches, neuropathy, mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats. Just about the only side effect not listed for the inhibitors I’m now taking is California falling into the ocean, though I’m not too sure about that one. The good thing is that I’m only scheduled to take these drugs for five to seven more years, so there are only another four to six years and eight months to go. Who’s counting?

Muddling through the various appointments, surgeries, scans, tests, treatments, and decisions, not necessarily in that order, has left me with a profound sense of time loss.

Watches are good at ticking off the fleeting seconds, minutes, and hours. Calendars do the same for days, weeks, months, and years. Where’s the gizmo — the whatchamacallit — for making time stand still so you can celebrate the present — the presence of this very second, this rhythmic heartbeat.

Has anyone invented a thingamajig that captures the swelling of an overflowing heart when you are holding a blessing for the first time? Is there a camera to memorize the stolen glance, the knowing look, or the sticky kiss? Where do you store that minute that measures the anticipation of a new life and new beginnings?

And then there are the moments you don’t want to think about, and yet there they are. One of those happened when the results of my Oncotype DX — the test that can determine the likelihood in percentage points of this cancer recurring — came back higher than the oncology team expected. Since I wanted this diagnosis to neither define nor confine me, I just looked at the bright side… here was something I had on my trophy shelf to show off to those detractors who thought I couldn’t do too many things well. It didn’t come with a banner and crown, so I had the full chemo protocol plus an additional boost on the radiation, just because….

Blue eyes should come with blonde, wavy curls, though from birth through adolescence mine never did. I was the one with the rollers and hot curlers in all our childhood pictures. Just guess what started growing back in, and curly, a number of months after all my hair fell out following the chemo? It just wasn’t blonde. I’ll take it anyway.

I wanted to throw a party when my hair grew in enough to require a haircut. And I didn’t need cupcakes and ice cream to make me happy, though in case anyone asks, I’m partial to mint- chocolate-chip. I had an extra scoop of that, too.

I’ve learned to respect the components that have changed my life. It comes with the territory and includes the joys of prioritizing selective sights and sounds. I now choose what I want to see and hear. Try that on a spouse, a kid, or a grand. You know how good I am? I can now look without seeing and hear without listening. The real creative art is looking away. The relationships you cherish most are where this all comes in handy.

And so, for myself, I am celebrating life with each and every new day. I’m buying whatever’s not on sale (okay, not always) just because I want to, and I’m the one sitting in the waiting line in carpool with my eyes closed, swaying and humming my favorite melodies and enjoying the beat with both the windows and the sound all the way up.

When we go out for coffee, I’m ordering the luscious dessert — and savoring it. I’ll gift you one, too.

As to my future? I’ll wait to worry. What yet do I want to do? I want to make a difference. More essential than the future is the present, and I know that there is no minute more precious than the one I am nurturing right now.

These moments are found wherever I want to see them. The relationships I have with all that is mine are what I can cherish. I don’t need more because all He has given me is enough. Finding this depth and developing the determination is empowering. These are my gifts — though a little bling never hurt….

We begin each new journey of healing with hope. So, much like the seasons, these journeys each represent different phases and emotions: discovery; treatment; recovery; resolve. And each deserves to be respected, accepted, and appreciated.

I’m learning that one can be cured and not healed — and one can be healed but not cured.

The choice is mine.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 859)

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