Howdy y’all. I’m posting here from Austin, Texas where I’ve been with my husband David and son Peter since Friday. I’ve taken a break from cancer the last few days as we’ve been busy swimming, eating and hanging with my sister Laura and her family.
The air is so hot and dry here it felt like walking into a sauna when we first arrived. After the cold and wet summer we have been having in New England, all this sunshine is like a miracle. I’ve gotta say, the locals are pretty sunny too–friendliness abounds. This is also a change, as people in the Boston area tend to be a lot more reserved. Perhaps it is a climate thing.
On Saturday night we joined the throngs of people who go to the Congress St. Bridge at dusk to watch the approx. 1.5 million bats emerge. That was so cool! Huge waves of bats fly out just beneath where you are standing. They are so close that you can hear the sound of their wings and even smell them–a rather sweet, dusky smell that was not offensive to me. Wave after wave of bats swirl up into the sky like swarms of bees or schools of fish. In fact, the experience brought to mind the time my daughter and I accompanied a beekeeper as they opened a hive, or the many times as a child when I would wait until the sunfish schooled beneath the raft I was standing on and then I would jump into the middle of them. There is something so powerful about being right in the middle of a large group of animals.
Yesterday we swam and boated on Lake Austin and another of my sisters, Diana, joined us with her daughter. At the lake there is a dock that is two stories tall and has a diving board on the second story. I spent the summers of my childhood swimming in a pond in Colorado and this was making me feel like a kid again. Not one to let a wild hair go unnoticed, I slipped up top and changed into my suit and jumped off the board before anyone other than Peter was the wiser. Quite a rush–although I never thought to plug my nose and breathed in a good deal of water. After the applause died down (kidding, but all assembled were surprised and impressed) I began to fret a little (silently) about whether I’d get sick from that water now in my sinuses. Hadn’t I read something about bacteria in lakes in Texas causing some brain virus? This really did go through my head. Just want you all to know that strong and brave is not always the mode under which I operate. I am in fact strangely paranoid sometimes that I am going to do something to screw things up–almost as if there is some sort of pressure and or obligation to stay healthy now. And in a way, there is. The part about the break from cancer was a bit disingenuous. Once you receive that diagnosis, cancer is seldom far from your mind.
I have lost so many people I have cared about to cancer. You can’t help but feel a bond with others who are in this fight, and it is almost impossible to not take everyone’s wins or losses personally. Particularly now, that I am really in the frontline, I feel like a soldier and the loss of any other soldier just makes me want to fight harder. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those who lost their fight. People like my Dad (pancreatic cancer), my brother in law Andy’s mom Jan (breast), My friends Jan (ovarian), Kevin (lung), Heidi (sinus), Betty (breast), my dear friend Melinda’s mom Sharon (ovarian), my friend Bill’s wife Andrea (cervical). And then there are those who are still in this fight for our lives: my mom Ev, my stepfather Jim, my husband’s sister Polly and aunt Penny, Greg, Stephanie, Karen, Nick, Diane, Karen, Kathy, Steve, Wendy… The list is far too long.
And yet: there is something about cancer. No matter how isolating that initial diagnosis is, you quickly become aware of how many people are in this fight with you. I’m not just talking about our fellow survivors: I am talking about everyone else whose life has been touched by cancer in one way or another.
We are not in this alone.