I ended up not completing the entire race, finishing 69.1 miles instead of the 70.3. When I look back at that race report here, I see photos of my Mom, Dad and brother and am brought back to that sunny day in May when my greatest concern was that race, and my biggest regret was not having trained harder for the swim portion.
When I had a lull in my training, I remember sometimes being at a loss on topics for my blog. Slowly, my blog did start to tackle more serious topics, but not until quite awhile after I wrote about Shifting Focus of my blog to, you guessed it, self improvement. I quoted a book I was currently reading, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
"The words of the writer Colette had haunted me for years: 'What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.' I didn't want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think, 'How happy I used to be then, if only I'd realized it.' I needed to think about this: How could I discipline myself to feel grateful for my ordinary day? How could I set a higher standard for myself as a wife, mother, writer, a friend? How could I let go of everyday annoyances to keep a larger, more transcendent perspective?" (from The Happiness Project)
I cautiously introduced my now husband to my "readers" (how many did I have then, 10?) months after I had written in my private diary that I knew he was the one on the night of our very first date. And I gushed over his proposal to me in front of the Trevi Fountain on a surprise trip to Rome in my We're Engaged! posting. It was perfect, and a fairy-tale, and more than I had ever even hoped for, as we began wedding planning.
All of my posts were positive, because that's how life was at the time. Simple, yet exciting, with everything finally falling into place.
Then, three months before our wedding, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Brain cancer. And I started my posting The Big C with a quote that really wanted to believe, but now finally know to be true:
“The next time you’re faced with something that’s unexpected, unwanted, and uncertain, consider that it may be a gift.”—Stacey Kramer
No longer searching for topics, I blogged my way through my last 14 months with her and came to understand just how therapeutic putting my thoughts down and sharing them with others had become. Never one to go on the computer and proud of the fact she had never sent or received and email, she would often contribute to my blog by suggesting I share her point of view or a funny anecdote that happened during chemo treatment. I interviewed her about parenting after our first (failed) IVF procedure, knowing she might not be around when I had my little girl.
I started to make connections and had other people from different parts of the world reach out in support. It also felt good knowing that our memories were saved; archived. I wouldn't forget, for example, Autumn Weekends with Mom, and they were there not just for me to look back on one day, but for family, her family even, in other parts of the world to see and always there for safekeeping. And for future family, like our now 9 month old little girl.
I blogged through our two IVF procedures, and the birth of our amazing little girl - life's real game-changer and our greatest joy. The tough parts were finally behind us, and we were set right again on a great course for our life. Having already had our fair-share of trials in our short marriage, some of which actually were not blogged about, we had emerged with our relationship in-tact, not completely unscathed but stronger as a couple and definitely closer for it.
And that brings us to today. A day or two before I will hopefully be receiving the news that my margins were clear, and the melanoma was not already in my lymph nodes. But here I sit, absolutely terrified that won't be the case. Or that it will return in three months. What I'm learning about the disease is that it will never be "cured" or gone from me. The most I can hope for is what melanoma survivors call NED: no evidence of disease.
I had avoided google and webmd until a few days ago. That was when I found out that because my primary tumor was more than 1 mm, and I'm most likely stage 1B, I will never be cured. It may recur, but with current stage my chances would be lower. Lower...but what I really wanted was it to be gone. Forever. I asked a family member who is a doctor how it reoccurs....same mole/site or different? She said Usually, the same one shows up years later. It recurs locally or may spread distantly.
I was so distraught by this. Distraught by the fact that there was nothing I could proactively "do" to get rid of it, like chemo. I could stay on top of my scans every three months, but even PET CT scans only show actual masses, not cellular changes. Depending on where they are, it can be too late. I lamented to my Mom Cathy, who has checked in on me every day since the diagnosis, that I did not want to leave our little girl with no Mom at 10 years old or heck, even 20.
I usually try and tie my postings up with a tidy bow and put a positive spin on them. But in this one, I'm not going to try that hard. I am going to end it with how I am feeling and how frightened I am of leaving my little girl and the love of my life who has, in less than three years of marriage, proven himself a thousand times over to be more than I could ask for or probably deserve.
***UPDATE*** My surgeon just called while we were on our walk. Margins were clear, primary site was widely excised, and there were NO melanoma cells in my two lymph nodes that were biopsied. He is faxing the report to my oncologist who we meet with tomorrow at 3pm. My husband picked me up, careful to avoid my 18 stitches that look like a shark bite, spun me around and kissed me. It may not be gone, and we have a lot to learn about how to remain vigilant, but for right now it is a whole lot smaller.