Rubber band

Here I am in my parents’ home, with the children until Daddy can join us this weekend for a full and proper visit. Am writing on this tablet, which is not quite as easy as I’d hoped, but it’s coming along. So far the only major embarrassment is an accidental posting of a blank post. iPads are a bit trigger happy in some apps. Or is that just me?

In March I was here with the kids, and my mom was just getting her very basic strength back after recovering from a course of chemotherapy that nearly killed her. I wish I were speaking metaphorically. Last night, our first night here of this visit, we watched a crime procedural drama on TV–“The Closer” spoiler alert–an oncologist had been murdered and the suspect was a pharmaceutical sales rep who was trying to rid the world of chemotherapies, which “don’t heal, but poison.” It hit a little close to home, but Mom didn’t seem bothered by it.

Last year at about this time, the whole family was here at the same time, and we were preparing for a big back yard barbecue with our family’s closest friends. Mom was just starting to feel terribly ill, she had not yet been diagnosed… She was just exhausted. I remember prepping what seemed to be 40lbs of chicken with my sister-in-law under my Mom’s supervision–Mom insisted that we slit every single chicken breast (seriously, there had to have been 100) before marinating them. I said under my breath to my sister-in-law, “I think it’ll be fine if we don’t slit the chicken…” but then I looked at my mom. We slit the chicken. (Mom had given me her signature “don’t mess with me” look.)

Today, my mom retaught me how to make and roll the dough for one of my favorite food items ever. We worked together quietly, with her occasionally noting my progress or offering some other sort of encouragement. She said, “Last year I was just starting to get sick.” I said, “Yes, I remember.”

So much happens in such a short period of time. And so little can change. So much can terrify you, and then in an instant (or week, or month, or year, same thing) everything snaps back to the familiar.

Yesterday, on the plane, on the initial ascent after takeoff for my hometown, we hit turbulence. Not just any turbulence, and not the kind that causes the oxygen masks to drop down, but significant turbulence. For the first time ever in my very long history of flying, and more important, of absolutely loving to fly, I felt nervous. I looked around the plane and everybody seemed calm, but I kept feeling more and more anxious. And then I started to feel angry, literally thinking to myself, “Are you f—ing kidding me? I’m going down in a plane with our kids?” I literally thought-screamed “NOOOO!” and then…

And then I looked at our kids. They were laughing maniacally, shouting “Whoa! Whoa! Whooooooooa!” I snapped back to the familiar, and asked them to be a just little quieter.

Five years

We moved here, to a city in the southeastern United States, about five years ago, right after my 2007 diagnosis of Stage II/III papillary thyroid cancer.

Next week, I’ll go in for an ultrasound of my neck, some blood work, and meet with my endocrinologist. At the five-year mark, I will join the ranks of the 95% — the share of people with this same diagnosis who will die of something other than this cancer. Yay me!¬†I’m assuming, as I’ve been doing since 2009, when I was deemed “cancer-free” one year after radio-iodine treatment for the cancer cells that the surgeon couldn’t possibly see or remove, that next week the doctor will spend about five minutes me with and I’ll be on my way. Yay me, again!

I’ve been the first to say that the cancer I had was “easy,” or “boring,” or “not a big deal,” because I did in fact have about the friendliest cancer on the planet. As one doctor put it, “it’s a lazy, indolent cancer.” Since my little cancer junket, my sister, who avoided breast cancer in early 2007, had to deal with lymphoma in 2009. My dad had a major heart attack a week after my diagnosis. My mother has been dealing with multiple myeloma for the past year. The cancer I had? It barely happened to me.

But it did happen. While I am obscenely lucky to have skated through it all, I do feel clarified by it. Not as in “made less confused,” but as in butter, “melted to separate out impurities.” Impurities like wistfulness, regret, or shame.¬†Finally, I like who I am.

Maybe this is why the prospect of moving again in a few months–even though we’re in relocation limbo at the moment–seems so easy.

Maybe that’s why everything seems so easy.