Monday, July 18, 2016

My date with NED, 10 years ago-Today.

Tomorrow, this blog will be live for five years. Five years ago, I stepped into my own private social media space - this blog, my social media home. Five years ago, I began to fall in love over and over again, and over these past five years, my heart has been broken over and over AND OVER again. Dozens of times.

Tomorrow is also, more importantly and with much more profound impact, the ninth anniversary of my dad's death. He was just 71. I am still hurt. I still feel like we were robbed of many years. On July 3rd, he would have been 80 years old. We should have been having a grand celebration. Instead, I spent the day in quiet reflection.

My life, in many ways is a tangled and epic mess. Not many of the external things, those things that are beyond my control have changed. What has changed is me. I'm bolder, I've learned much and I continue to learn each and every day. I choose joy over despair, even in my darkest moments. I choose love over indifference, even when I feel pangs that resemble hate that may lead me on a path toward indifference.

I do, however, still choose anger and I seem to have no problem expressing it at times. What I have chosen not to do, is cloak myself in that anger, or use it as a blanket of self-righteousness. Instead, I realize anger must be released and if I feel it, its wrath is going to be unleashed. Sometimes it's constructive, sometimes, I could do a better job of expressing my anger or identifying the anger as some other emotion. Perhaps I'm disappointed and it's disguised itself as anger. Perhaps I'm terrified and again, the mask of anger blinds me to the fact that I'm in a moment of fear.

That was a total sidebar and a complete distraction from what I wish to share today. Today, you see, is one of those cancer anniversaries, a cancerversary. I hate that this disease has spawned its very own language filled with many idioms. I imagine, technically, today is the day I can say I am Ten Years NED. I didn't know that ten years ago. I wouldn't hear the word cancer until July 27th but it was today that the cells were removed from my body. Three months prior, in April of 2006, I had a suspicious mammogram, a number of biopsies which ultimately bought me the golden admission ticket.

I wrote this piece on July 18, 2012. It was posted here. I've made some changes and added a few comments but today, I am honoring myself, my feelings, my life after a cancer diagnosis.

First posted, almost identically, July 18, 2012:

Ironically, and this really had no bearing on the timing of making this blog public, TEN years ago today, July 18, 2006, I made my way into an operating room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the very first time. I was not nervous. I was having a surgical biopsy. However, in my mind, the word biopsy wasn't really part of the language of the day. I had atypical cells removed from a core biopsy and to quote my rock star radiologist, "We don't leave abnormal cells in anyone's body."

That was my frame of mind. That is how I skipped into the operating room, greeted by my rock star breast surgeon. There was no fear when I climbed on to the operating table. Yes, MSK is one of the hospitals where you walk into the operating room. I was asked my name and date of birth by at least six people while someone else was reading the band on my wrist and yet a third person was looking at my chart. Patient safety and medical errors are high priority at that hospital. I knew nothing of this advocacy gig, nothing of self-advocacy aside from the words spoken to me by the radiologist who told me of the abnormal cells, surgery needed, surgeon has better drugs and "Be Your OWN Advocate."

As I was welcomed to the party, I was asked, "What are you having done today, AnneMarie." I was at Spa Sloan and I should have replied, "single process touch up and a mani-pedi while the dye is doing its magic." Instead, I heard the words but couldn't recognize my own voice. As I was responding in dutiful fashion, my eyes caught a glimpse of a HUGE white board. I uttered the words surgical biopsy but everything began to spin as I saw the word lumpectomy plastered across that white board.  Can't blame the spinning room on the anesthesia, either.... they don't touch you with a single mind altering substance until all of the questions are answered. The spinning room was because suddenly, I was in a cancer hospital, in an operating room, apparently having a lumpectomy. Somewhere deep inside, I knew I was headed down a lonely road. Despite a very large, exceptionally supportive and wonderfully loving family, while cancer may be a team sport with the sheer number of doctors and medical professionals in the game, cancer IS the ultimate solo journey. That was six  ten years ago. Today.

And one five years ago, I was anticipating the launch of this blog. I wonder if I even realized today was biopsy day.  I doubt it. I was anxious to see this thing go live. I was curious if anyone would even realize it was here. Would I attain the one goal I set for myself?  Validate just one person. Would anyone even read my nonsensical tales of how my brain seemed to have taken a permanent vacation? When the first comment appeared, and unlike Julie and Julia, it was NOT from my mom, I achieved what I set out to do. It was a short thank you. Ironically, the comment was made on July 27th. The Cancer Chasm Date. Sherry, where ever you are..... THANK you.

The rest? I'm not going to bore anyone with the details of every single thing that has happened in one year. My life took a left turn and I turned left and just went with it. If July 2010 through July 2011 was possibly one of the worst periods in my life, BAR NONE, these past twelve months have more than made up for the previous twelve. I found a voice. My voice. I pursued that which stirred a passion deep from within and it has nothing to do with shades of grey or anything else outside of myself. I am thankful for a wonderful group of people who have become friends. I've met quite a few people in the 3D world. We've stepped out of our computers and into cafes or meetings or the homes of friends. I've felt a kinship previously unknown to me. I have a sense of purpose. Real purpose.

To make a difference
To lend an ear
To steady a step
To hold a hand
To dry a tear
To laugh
To cry
To speak softly with kindness
To shout with outrage

To be a Fearless Friend

Simply Just Be


Honoring my feelings no matter where they are on the emotional spectrum. Hopefully acting in a respectful manner whether I'm using my voice or communicating via my printed words. Agreeing to disagree. Being true to myself first. Standing firmly in my beliefs. Never losing sight of the big picture. Realizing that goals may be achieved incrementally and that's okay.*** Keeping a sense of idealism but acting from a place of realistic expectations.

***Note: incremental goals are okay, incremental research has gotta go. It's now four years later, and I don't think I've seen an accumulation of enough incremental anything to make a real difference. Plus, when I look at the post from 2012, I see comments from a number of people. Two of them, each of them very special to me, are no longer here. And yes, there's hurt and anger which bubbled up as I was preparing to write this post today, in 2016.

If you've joined me in this adventure, thank you. I feel the support. It motivates me each day to do more, to be better, and to bask in the glow of a favorite quote:

It's never to late to become who you might have been.

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  1. 10 years of NED? He must be your best friend! I am happy for you. I wish you another 50 years with NED!

  2. Yay, so happy to hear, Ann Marie. Blowing has helped me too, through my breast cancer journey. May you live a long, very healthy life!! @CancerBTTB

  3. I think of our introduction to each other, both mentally challenged as a result of the process that made us NED. You have come such a long way. You definitely have found your voice. And you are the voice and physical presence for many of us. Thank you AnneMarie. I hope our paths will cross again.