I just finished a rockin' game of Life with my kids. The Sponge Bob version to be exact. Harrison assigned himself to Mr. Krabs and Madison was Sponge Bob. I got to be the paperclip. (We are missing some game pieces.) Harrison was the banker. Madison was in charge of the game cards for which she sang every word on the card in perfect pitch during the entire game. We worked our way around the board experiencing job changes, pay days and expense cards. We laughed and we bickered. We even danced a little. Mr. Krabs, the cheapskate by character, won. Kind of fitting, I think. As was playing this game on this night after this week.
Today, I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of a research study on nutrition for cancer survivors. However, only survivors diagnosed with cancer in stages I to IIIa qualify to participate. I did not think I was a fit, but I called Steve because I wanted to know for sure. For those of you who have read my past blog entries, you may remember that I never wanted to know my stage. Thus, I don't. I knew it was bad. I knew I had to fight a monster regardless of heavy weight ranking.
Steve knew definitively. "You were stage 3c or 4a, " he said. "The doctors said that it was stage four because it was inoperable but was downgraded to 3c when the chemotherapy worked."
"I really defeated a beast, didn't I?" I said.
"Yes, you did, honey. I am proud of you."
I was fighting for my life, after all. This past year, when people used that expression in regard to me, I always thought they were being over dramatic. Hmmm...maybe I was wrong.
Yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment where they filled my expander. The expander now harbors 200/350 cc's of saline, which is gradually being added in order to prepare my skin and muscle to hold the implant. While I waited in the quiet procedure room, I had a moment to reflect on my strategy for living my best life in the short term. I have been in such a rush to complete my journey that I had not thought in depth about the repercussions of having my last surgery immediately after Thanksgiving. I know how strong I am and how much I can handle physically. However, what I had not considered is what I can handle mentally. During this brief sanctuary of quiet reflection, I concluded that I do not want another Christmas season like the one I had last year.
I have a vivid memory of last year's Holiday Sing at the elementary school. Sadly, I do not remember anything about my child's performance. What I do remember is that my hair was falling out in clumps from the chemotherapy. I remember telling myself that my hair falling out was a good sign in that it meant that the chemo was working. However, inside, my heart was breaking. That night, I had clipped my hair up in a style aimed to hide my growing bald spots. I was sitting in the front row of the auditorium and people were filing in to sit in the row behind me. The rows were narrow and some parents inadvertently bumped my head as they squeezed by. I remember thinking that if one more person bumped my head that all of my hair was going to fall to the ground. I was astonished that it did not. That bitter memory is burned in my brain. I want to replace it with new ones.
This year, I want to go to ALL of the holiday parties. Go to my kids' school performances. Go to the December and January soccer tournaments. Bake cookies. Wrap presents. The kids are getting so big, so fast. At ages seven and 10, it will not be too much longer before Christmas loses its bright-eyed wonderment - which to witness is truly one of the best rewards of being a parent. I do not want to miss another moment.
So, playing the game of Life tonight with my kids tied my week's experiences up in a bow, like a gift. A sweet reminder of what could have been or not have been as the case may be. How lucky I am. How blessed I am to have countless more chances to sit around the coffee table in my living room and play a board game. I'll take being that paperclip and any Life expense cards you can throw at me. Mr. Krabs, I want a re-match!