Dear Pre-Cancer Me:
What are you doing tonight? It’s been a while. The last time I saw you, we just got back from a cross-country trip that took us from the East Coast heading through the Southwest until we arrived home in California. True, we weren’t pre-cancer then. We lugged a 2.2 cm. malignant lump clear across the country, but we didn’t have a definitive diagnosis yet; just false assurances from the doctor who read the ultrasound. The main thing is that we felt like our pre-cancer selves.
The trip began in New York City where we strolled through the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park. Gazing upon the commemoration in honor of John Lennon, we imagined all the good things waiting for us in life’s vast storehouse.Oblivious to what lay ahead, we traversed the miles that took us through the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert. The striated hills and canyons popped in shades of mint, rust, heather and buttercream. Our eyes swelled from the pleasures of visual orgasm.
My itinerary changed to a schedule of surgery, PET scans, eight chemos, pinpricks, Neupogen shots, and 33 rounds of radiation. Harrowing as all of that was, it wouldn’t have been so bad if that’s where it ended. Three years later, I didn’t count on a life that still feels on hold. Of course, not entirely. Recovery and healing are slow, but steady. Still, to this day, I often feel the debilitating after-effects of treatment where I survive, but fail to thrive.
So tell me, Pre-Cancer Me, what are you doing tonight? Because I haven’t seen you since the Grand Canyon. You dumped me right when things were good between us. You had your fun and ditched me when the going got rough. I still reel from the abruptness with which you cut things off. Okay, so I suspected something wasn’t right beforehand, but nothing that couldn’t be easily fixed, or so I thought. Did I let you down in some way? I know you’d say I’m overreacting, that it was you who gave me the tenacity to get through the tornado that swept through my life. I can’t really say. Whether you were there or not is a blur. I surely didn’t recognize you. Even if it’s true, where are you now?
Pre-Cancer Me, what are you doing tonight? Did life stay the same? I know nothing stays the same, nor should it. You and I were never fond of stagnation. In appreciation of the opportunities toward growth that only change can effect, we committed ourselves to a path that moves forward. Now my life remains intolerably on hold precisely because it changed, as is the dichotomy of one who undergoes cancer treatment.
Forgive me if I seem a nag, Pre-Cancer Me, and please tell me, where are you tonight? Because I miss you. I keep looking for your face in the crowd and certainly the mirror. Sometimes I think I found you only to discover who I thought was you is actually a poor facsimile. The imposter bears some resemblance, but just when I think it’s the real thing, it ultimately disintegrates like an actor who breaks character in the middle of a scene.
Pre-Cancer Me, I beg your indulgence. Where are you tonight? I haven’t given up and I won’t until I find you again. To quit is not in my nature, nor would it be in yours to give up on me. Like any duo, the two of us would blend to become who we’d be now, which is surely more magical than who we are apart. I admit I’d get the better end of the deal, but in return, you’d have my undying love. I use the word “undying” because it would make me so happy to be alive if I could go through life with you by my side. I do come with benefits. In your absence, I’ve acquired some valuable perspectives that is the education of one who experiences hardship. You may have read some truths in a book, but you can’t possibly perceive their depths without the benefit of my experience. You would be all that you are, and then some.
What do you say, Pre-Cancer Me? Where are you tonight? Because I’d sure love to join you wherever you are. We don’t have to do anything so spectacular as visiting the Grand Canyon. We don’t have to do anything at all. I’d be happy just to have you back and see you smile.