Six years ago — June 6, 2008 — the day dawned with news of heavy rains and storms approaching. My youngest son was attending his last day of high school. My oldest son was home, even though it was finals time at Carleton College where he was finishing his sophomore year. He had driven home to be with me and his dad. I was off to the hospital for surgery – lumpectomy, left breast. I remember waiting for the anesthesiologist in a room watching a television beeping with the storm warnings approaching across the state — wondering what would happen if the power went out during my procedure. Wondering how the return drive would be for our son. Trying not to think of storm as metaphor.
I remember the anesthesiologist telling me I would feel funny and heavy for a moment or two. And, I did. And I remember turning to my husband and son, saying something like, “Oh, it’s like college…..oh, sorry, I probably shouldn’t have said that,” and everyone laughed, but that’s all I remember.
After — our older son returned to school and made it back before many highways in Wisconsin had to shut down. Our younger son and his father had to work hard to keep water out of our basement that weekend. In my pain-killer haze, I had moments of wanting to help, but getting out of the recliner wasn’t happening easily. I slept despite the pounding rain and the bailing of the backyard that was happening.
That was six years ago. And now? Life still has its storms – the ups and downs are part of the ride – no avoiding them. But, the most important thing that stays with me every day? I am grateful. I am so thankful to be here, to wake up and see the sky, whether its dreary or bright.
I am grateful for the 2191 days since that surgery. I mark today as my cancer birthday. Different survivors would mark it after radiation, or after chemo, but I mark mine on the date they cut those wacky cells out of me. Today, I am celebrating six years cancer free.
I am grateful for many, many things, but I’ll try and narrow it down to a few for my Thanksgiving in June.
Things I am Thankful for:
June, 2008 – three weeks after surgery, at my mom’s wedding at my sister’s house. :-)
All of them. The extra close, the kind of far, the always unusual, the sometimes annoying. I love them all. But, I do reserve some special Little River Band lyrics for my husband: “And I love you best, you’re not like the rest, you’re there when I need you, you’re there when I need, I’m gonna need you…”
- from my church, from the Red Oak Writing community, from college, from high school, from kindergarten and grade school, from former jobs (and yes, I am thankful for Facebook, which I joined in these last six years, which has reconnected me with many of those friends)
This blog began in the last six years and has been a blessing for my writing life — the people I’ve met and connected with here have helped me grow as a writer, and hopefully, has helped others too. Also, I started publishing in the last six years. I’ve embarked on a non-MFA training program to improve my skills. In that process, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to study with amazing writers: Amber Dermont, Robert Boswell, Antonya Nelson, Marilynne Robinson, Siri Hustvedt, Luis Alberto Urrea and Lynn Freed.
4. Travels – seeing our world
I’ve traveled a lot in these last six years, visiting marvelous places and people. Sometimes, I’ve blogged about those travels and you can find photos here. I’ve been to Poland, Sicily, France, Mexico and within the United States — Aspen, New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Minneapolis/St Paul, Chicago, Charlotte, Naples, FL, Portland, OR, the Delaware shore, foliage trips to Door County, the U.P. in Michigan and New Hampshire, and many, many trips to both western Massachusetts and Cape Cod.
I am thankful for my faith, even though it’s a changing thing for me. I often wish I could be as rock solid in my faith as some people seem, but that’s not the way my faith works. For me, it’s like the wind– sometimes strong, sometimes gentle and sometimes, unfortunately, absent. But, I understand that for some, it’s not only absent, but not desired and that’s not how faith works for me. So, I am grateful for the fact that I believe in a much greater power than me (usually), and that I have the desire to grow in faith and do my part to keep my faith alive.
And, those are the five things I am most grateful for today on my sixth cancer-free birthday. Tonight, I’ll share a glass of wine with the man mentioned above in number one and we’ll count our many blessings with many smiles.