2018 is a big year for me. 40 whole years of living on this planet. Honestly, I’m in a very different place at 40 than I expected. I suppose that is true of a lot of people. Until early last year, my life was on a very different trajectory. Life after a terminal diagnosis is irrevocably changed and sometimes it is hard to imagine what was happening before those fateful words … “You have breast cancer.”
I think about that day sometimes. The great divide of time before and after that day. I’ve experienced other days that created a clear before and after … graduations, passing the bar, getting married, establishing my law firm, the births of the boys … pretty big stuff and yet the news that I have breast cancer and, even more serious, stage IV metastatic breast caner has been and is the biggest of my life.
Like so many people, I always thought there would be more time. More time to spend time with the people I love, with my beloved husband and two boys, with my parents and siblings. More time to work and build my business and my professional reputation. Arguably, we had everything in place and ready to achieve whatever we set our minds to when suddenly it felt as though the sky had come crashing down.
Well, the sky has fallen and somehow life still does go on. The boys have to go to school every day. The laundry has to get done. Lunches have to be packed each day. Haircuts have to be scheduled and clothes purchased. The mundane details of everyday life sometimes lull me into a sense of normalcy when nothing is normal any longer. Dwelling on my diagnosis isn’t a good use of my time, yet sometime that’s all I can do.
I thought somehow that living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer would get easier with time. It really hasn’t. I have found ways to compartmentalize that information, to focus on the here and now, but then I encounter a trigger and I’m right back in the office finding out that I will die sooner rather than later or reliving sitting a chemo chair receiving poison or reliving some scary moments when I felt like I would pass out or had excruciating pain. I have learned to buffer myself against those moments and I’m getting better at swallowing, breathing, and moving on, but it’s not really easier.
So, happy birthday to me. I have achieved a milestone and I’m grateful to have this day, this year, this decade to spend with my family. It is my hope and prayer that I will get to celebrate more birthdays and get more time with my family. Yet, I know that the clock it ticking for me very differently now. I feel a sense of urgency that wasn’t there before. That urgency has propelled me to spend my time differently. Better? Maybe, but definitely differently.