Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Cinco de Mayo

Two years ago today, I got a call from my local Planned Parenthood announcing some test results. The woman's voice was shaky when she said, "I'm sorry, it says cancer." I suspected the woman on the other end of the phone had not given that sort of result before. At that point, I don't really remember what happened, other than I hung up and just kind of stared at the bedroom wall. (To this day, ochre is my least favorite color.) It turned out I only had to make two calls, one to my boyfriend, and another to my sister. The whole family was in the car together, headed out for a birthday lunch in honor of my father. For the amount of time actually contained in a moment, the space between my sister answering and my telling her the news was very, very long. Amazing, how many thoughts can run through one's mind when fueled by adrenaline. "Should I tell them now?" "I'm ruining my father's birthday." "They will probably want to know." "What is going to happen to me?" She passed the phone around the car.

A few emotions break through the staggering amount of procedures and pain medications involved in the process of being sick and recovering at the hands of some of the most fantastic doctors in the world. One is survivor guilt. Being stage one cancer walking hallways with stage four cancer is hard and sad. It was like being in Junior Varsity sports, a medal with some made up achievement was waiting for me just for being there, while the Varsity kids ran timed, impossible laps for the slim chance of snagging something, anything, to signify accomplishment. My nephew made it, but his race was two and a half years long. Others fall to a competitor who always changes the rules.

Another emotion is tremendous, overwhelming gratitude for God (that's right, I said it) diagnosing me. It gave me the opportunity to stop and reassess my teeny little human life, to that point, a perspective I had not taken. Cancer took an obsessed careerist New Yorker type and turned her into someone who wakes up and every morning, gives thanks for something, and throughout the day, counts blessings. Two years ago, I didn't have the money to buy a new desk chair so I could sit and write. Two years ago, I couldn't sit up and write. Two years ago, I still thought I was owed things.

Here's a particularly prickly one: anyone who wants to take funding away from Planned Parenthood can Fuck Off. To me, your words sound like the pigs in Angry Birds, but even less intelligent. I didn't have insurance when I wandered into the clinic at the demand of a very good friend and my boyfriend (now husband), nor did I have a job, the result of being a freelancer in a poor economy. Without Planned Parenthood around, my cancer might have been stage 2 or 3 before I had access to a clinic for tests. I do not like writing about my journey publicly, but if it helps Planned Parenthood in any way, here we go.

Lastly are the feelings of gratitude I have towards everything and everyone now.  It's such a better way to live. I notice more. I stop to smell the roses, and the pepper trees. Outwardly, it may not seem like much, but inwardly, I pay attention to what brings joy, and distance myself from things that do not. You must do this for yourself. Just a flash in a day, standing there in the down time waiting for coffee to brew, your mind will unearth a list of reasons to be thankful, keep going and choose to see the good in the world, if you let it. Be thankful for the coffee and the clean water you used to make it in your warm and dry house.

And one point to note: don't call your dad on his birthday to say anything other than Happy Birthday. Wait for a normal day and ruin that one. Everyone handles crappy news differently, but for my family, that is one thing I wish I could change. Sorry, dad. But hey, it all turned out okay in the end.

So, in a day of paying extra special attention to blessings, in just a few short months, I also get to say I am two years cancer-free! I will call my dad to wish him a happy birthday and then go out in search of the best chicken pot pie in Los Angeles, which is how I have decided to celebrate our day.


  1. 8)
    i can't belive it's only been 2 years. it seems like such a long time ago. i'm glad there will be many more roses and pepper trees in the future.

  2. I so appreciate your honesty. This hits close to home on a lot of levels, and its so nice to hear the positive things you took away from the experience. And yes, go Planned Parenthood! They provided me with the birth control my insurance decided they would no longer cover. So grateful for them.

  3. I learn more about you with each post I read. I hate that it took you moving, or someone else moving, or Riley getting sick for us to get closer. Nonetheless, so glad we have. I regret not being more available to you and for you, considering I was across the street.
    I'm shocked to hear that they give this news over the phone, yet grateful you had a place to go.
    Btw, I bet Calendar's on Wilshire serves a mean Chicken Pot Pie!

    Will give you a celebratory hug on Sunday!! xo


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Stay positive!