n. the anniversary of a close escape from death, especially one involving permanent injury. Originally coined by US veterans, and adopted by survivors of accidents, cancer treatments, etc.
A year ago today, I went into the hospital and came out with no cancer.
A team of surgeons carved a chunk out of my leg — a circle about 4 inches across (about the size of a CD) and 1 1/2 inches deep. A secondary incision on my lower abdomen was where they removed two lymph nodes for a sentinel node biopsy (to make sure the cancer had not spread). They took a roughly 5 x 5 skin graft from my other leg, so they could patch the crater they’d created.
What a year it’s been.
For the most part, 2007 was the Year That Wasn’t. I didn’t really get anything done that I had planned. I spent the first quarter largely confined to the couch downstairs. I didn’t get my official medical all-clear until about halfway throught the year. The months since have been a struggle to shake off the effects that the initial diagnosis and treatment had on me.
To be honest, ever since, it’s been a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stomach problems? What if it’s cancer? Headache? What if it’s cancer? Was that mole always there, or is it cancer? Almost like jumping at shadows….but no, more like being afraid of the sound of a gun, because at least there’s a reason for that. I’ve seen the gun, and heard it fired at me, and part of me is waiting to hear it again.
But it’s been a year. Another January has come round, and I’m still here. One of the things that scared me the most during the whole process was reading the 1, 5 and 10 year survival rates for people with the same classification of cancer that I had, but now I’ve cleared the first hurdle.
I’m not even going to begin to tell you about the changes this has wrought in the way I think about things, in what’s important to me and what isn’t, in relationships…any of that. As much as I’d like to, I don’t think that I have the ability. I can’t explain most of it.
Everything, in some way, is different.
It’s been a year. Bring on the next hurdle.