Five years ago I sat in my surgeon's office and heard him tell me I had cancer and then...nothing. I don't remember anything after that. My world shrank to the size of those two syllables and all of a sudden I couldn't see past that afternoon.  

I was a few months into a fresh decade. My thirties were supposed to be filled with big dreams and opportunities and adventure. My diagnosis turned it all upside down. 

Life has a funny way of keeping on keeping on. Even when I felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back, days turned into weeks and then months and years. I've not wished away the last five years but I have had this date tattooed on my heart.  

Five years is the magic number. Five years means my risk of recurrence has dropped dramatically. Five years means big dreams and opportunities and adventure don't need to be tempered by test results or specialist appointments. Five years means I can breathe again.  

Five years isn't a guarantee of anything (the first person to tell me we could all be hit by a bus tomorrow gets a punch) but it is a comfort. I can wrap those five years up in a box and tuck them away. Life will keep on keeping on but now I feel like I can start making plans instead of being swept along in the terrible current that is cancer.

I have been cut open and sewn back together. My body is scarred and soft in some places and gnarled and rough in others. But I'm standing strong, five years later, bolstered by the love and support thrown at me from every corner of my life. Cancer has taken a lot from me but it's also filled me with gratitude and a deep appreciation for the different ways people show up. Today is a celebration of my five years, yes, but it's also a celebration of the amazing people in my life who kept my life keeping on keeping on. Y'all, we did it. Five years. 


That Time I Didn't Have Cancer

Speaking from experience, going to a doctor's appointment convinced you have cancer and being told you do not is infinitely better than going to a doctor's appointment confident you do not have cancer and being told you do. I've done it both ways. Today, hearing the specialist tell me my pathology report came back clear felt like a million pounds being lifted off my shoulders. I have been paralyzed for months anticipating the surgery, having the surgery date changed multiple times, fretting, planning my kid's birthday parties just in case the surgery went wrong, actually having the damn surgery, and recovering. Today is my New Year's Day. A January 1st redo on May 1st. I'm celebrating with bubbly, obviously. Because that's what New Year's Day calls for. Cheers!


My surgeon told me to expect the pathology report within one to two weeks after my surgery. Tomorrow marks four weeks since my surgery and I still don't have my results. 

Patience is not one of my strengths. When I want to know something, I want to know now. I don't want to wait, I find no comfort in "no news is good news," and trusting the system is something that's been slowly squeezed from me almost five years into this cancer thing. 

May will mark five years since my diagnosis. Five years is a huge milestone in the cancer world. For a lot of types of cancer, fives years means the risk of recurrence drops drastically and life expectancy raises significantly. Five years is a bfd. 

The logical part of me knows that having a recurrence now would be terrible, but so would having a recurrence at six years, or ten years, or twenty. A recurrence means cancer and cancer is terrible (even if it's a good cancer DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED). 

But the emotional part of me wants to get to five years. It feels like we've been working for it since the day I was diagnosed. I say "we" and not "I" because it's been a group effort. My family, my friends, people who used to be acquaintances, strangers on the internet, so many people have played a role in my recovery. I couldn't even attempt to list the numerous ways people have supported me and loved me as I've flailed my way through this. Not reaching my five year mark feels like I'm failing them as much as my body fails me. (I know, I know. But this is not the logical part of me, okay? It is the stay-up-all-night-the-night-before-surgery-and-watch-my-babies-sleep part of me.) 

And so I wait. Practicing patience, or at the very least, honing my fortitude until I finally get the results from my surgery. Laser eyes and positive vibes welcomed and appreciated.

Brain Fog

I'm not a doctor or the least bit science-y so I can't speak to the facts of general anesthesia but I can speak to my own experience which is this: general anesthesia is hard on the brain. This was the sixth time I've been put under in the last five years and while the general anesthesia during the surgery and immediately afterwards was the smoothest experience I've had so far, the post-surgery recovery has been tough. My attention span is laughable. My energy is low, my thinking is muddled and slow, and it takes herculean effort to form a complete thought. 

It's one thing to tell you my brain feels foggy but I think I can best describe it by telling you what I did a few nights after my surgery. Before I tell you my shame, though, it's important you know a couple things. One: Poppy is not my first child. Two: Poppy is not an infant. 

Ready? Okay!

It's a few nights after my surgery. I am struggling to function in the critical thinking department. I am existing in a fog. Shawn and I realize Poppy has a bit of a fever but she's acting normally so we go about our day. Fast forward to 3 o'clock in the morning and Poppy is burning up. She's fast asleep but breathing loudly and quickly enough to wake both me and Shawn up.

We have an ear thermometer but it gives different readings literally seconds apart. Every time I use it I decide we need to buy a new thermometer and then I forget about it again until we go to use it the next time someone has a fever. (NOTE TO SELF: buy a new thermometer.) So I do the ear thermometer thing on Poppy and get a reading of 104.6F. 

I decide to call the nurses line. We go through a series of questions and I begin to feel more and more stupid for calling about my peacefully sleeping baby who has a bit of a fever (see above: not my first baby! Not an infant!) And then the nurse asks me if Poppy is lethargic. It is now 3:30 a.m. and Poppy is fast asleep (and has been asleep since about 7:30 p.m.)

Y'all, I woke up the sleeping baby at 3:30 a.m. to see if she was lethargic. (Spoiler alert: after I woke her up she was NOT SO MUCH LETHARGIC as she was pissed right off.) 

Anyway, Poppy is fine, she's just got a nasty cold, and I will be fine once my brain starts firing normally (hopefully sometime soon). 

PS: I wrote about the less hilarious aspect of my surgery over on go check it out and give some love to the other VM Voices.