Friday, January 6, 2012
Birthdays After Cancer
OK, this isn’t about writing. Sort of.
It’s about my birthday, which was yesterday, when my husband and my 20 year old son drove me up the California coast to my favorite outdoor café in Santa Barbara and to a sunset walk on the beach that I’ve loved best since childhood.
When my daughter called from Manhattan to have a wonderful birthday conversation, and my 88 year old mother offered to share the grisly details of my birth before I stopped her.
Yesterday was also my 19th birthday since I had cancer.
As it turned out, I had a good kind of cancer, the kind that can be cured. (Knock on wood. Po po po. Masses of salt over the shoulder.) The kind for which the cure is not a walk in the park, or even a walk through the hospital because, post-surgery, you end up swallowing so much radioactive iodine that you can’t hold your kids or get too close to anyone who ever wants to get pregnant. (A fact graciously shared with me from across the room by a nurse who wanted to get pregnant.)
It is also a cure that can make you feel so sick that you become a lifelong advocate of the medical marijuana that made you stop feeling sick. Indeed, you run around threatening to grow the stuff behind your house when the feds start manhandling California’s pot dispensaries. (In case anyone is planning to come visit, I don’t. I have a black thumb and a soft spot for our many, rose-eating gophers.)
But here I am.
With a very clear memory of when I didn’t think I’d be here. When a thoughtless and possibly evil doctor gave me some outdated articles (that turned out to have no relation whatsoever to my illness or to my prognosis) that seemed to suggest that I wouldn’t be around to raise my kids.
I don’t think about that much. But on my birthday, I do.
Here I am.
It was a very happy birthday.