To get what happened today, you have to get where I’m coming from.
I was 45 years old. I had two children. I had breast cancer. My prognosis was terrible. I couldn’t think of anything else. 24/7 doesn’t even describe it. I was obsessed. Possessed. Cancer invaded my brain just like it invaded my body.
Only worse. At least parts of my body didn’t have it. My entire brain was affected—every cell, every thought –I had a one-track mind.
I tried eveything to escape–yoga, meditation, guided imagery, music, nature walks. Nothing worked. When I discovered art a year after my diagnosis, I finally found some relief.
Painting for 5 minutes without thinking about cancer was a first step.
Eating a meal without chewing on cancer was a milestone.
Seeing a movie without cancer as the sub-plot was a breakthrough.
I never thought I’d get through a whole day without thinking about it. But as the years went by, I discovered even that was possible.
Cut to the gynecologist today. (I’ve lost so many body parts you’d think I wouldn’t even have to go anymore.)
This isn’t the gynecologist who delivered my children, or saw me through cancer. I’ve been seeing this doctor for maybe 5 years. Today I’m in the stirrups waiting for my exam while she’s flipping through my chart. And she says, “So what was the year of your diagnosis?”
I pause. “I can’t remember if it was ’94 or ’95,” I say.
I CAN’T REMEMBER. I have to think before I answer for sure: “‘It was ’95.”
The doctor is as dumbfounded as I am. The date of diagnosis is indelibly imprinted in the brain of a cancer patient. “How great that is,” she smiles. “To think that you could forget.”
I smile, too. It’s quite a moment.
I float out of the gynecologist’s office, basking in my resilience, and my ability to let go of cancer. When suddenly I have a thought.
What if this is not a milestone in my cancer journey after all? Maybe this is a different kind of milestone: the onset of Alzheimer’s.