My husband and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary in June. Some days it doesn’t seem half that long and others it seems like our golden anniversary is just a few years away. I’ve been trying to organize all my photographs from the past 21+ years and I can’t help but linger over pictures of my children at different stages of their lives. It’s a bittersweet thing to be sure. How did my son go from that six-year-old muscle man to a junior in high school considering colleges and careers? Or that adorable three-year-old girl with the curly brown hair. When did she turn into a 14-year-old with the confidence to sing in front of an audience of junior high and high school students?
“Cherish these moments. They won’t last long.” How often did I hear those words when my kids were small? Probably more than I can count. I listened and I DID cherish those moments. The conveyers of such wisdom were right. Each instant was over in a blink of an eye.
I love getting a glimpse of the adults Taylor and Katie are turning into. Most of the time I thoroughly enjoy hanging out with my teenagers, but sometimes I wish I could just jump in a time machine and go back to when they were little.
Time is such a funny thing. It never goes at the same speed. When you’re sitting in a boring classroom those 50 minutes seem to stretch on forever. But when you’re doing something you love it seems to breeze by. While I was looking through the photographs it hit me. I’m three months shy of the four year anniversary of my diagnosis.
That first year felt more like several years. I’d start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, only to realize it was a speeding train heading right for me. It was a frustrating year, full of immense physical and emotional struggles. I really thought once I was told there was no more cancer (never thinking I might have a metastasis or recurrence) everything would get back to normal.
But instead of normal, my family moved, settled into our new home, and then I started planning my reconstruction. Once I felt recovered from that I found myself having a complete hysterectomy with removal of my ovaries, throwing me into instant menopause for the third time. It was just one thing after another after another.
2008 was the first year since my diagnosis that was truly good. It took three years for me to get to that point and it felt like forever. But now it sometimes seems like a lifetime ago. Until I wear myself out and end up with thrush and ulcers on the roof of my mouth, courtesy of whatever funky things chemo did to me three years ago.
I don’t delude myself into thinking it will ever be forgotten. My body will always carry the battle scars as reminders. I am once again a happy and contented person except now there is a bit of mournfulness just under the surface that wasn’t there before. That has gotten better with time and I am hopeful it will someday go away – maybe when I finally and completely accept my “new normal.”
Three-and-a-half years ago, when I had just barely started down this path, I thought the journey ended after the treatment and the reconstruction and hearing the words, “No Evidence of Disease”. At that time I felt as though I was progressing so slowly and the road to the final destination would be an excruciatingly long one. What I have learned, however, is the journey never ends. Thankfully the scenery changes, though. The desert that appears never ending does finally lead to greener pastures and the journey becomes much more tolerable and eventually pleasurable.
Just like I would love to travel back in time to when my kids were little, I would love to travel back in time to four years ago; before my world changed forever. But if I were to stay in the past I would miss out on so much the present has to offer. Two incredible teenagers who make me laugh and smile and, yes, a little crazy. And a life with more wisdom and depth and even purpose than I knew before.
So if you are in the middle of the desert and are blessed to fully recover from cancer, I offer you hope. The time may drag by right now, but this too shall pass. I promise.