Of course, the story doesn't begin there. The story begins 48 1/2 years prior to that word. But when that word is uttered to you, about you, it feels like the beginning; because everything that has happened to you prior to that moment feels like leaves blowing away from you in the wind. And the dreams and ideas you have assembled to pave the road to your future become less certain, yet more precious.
May 22, 2015 will be that day for me. The day when an unknown doctor called me to tell me that they found cancer in my abdominal cavity. I heard the words as she said them, and even scribbled them down on a piece of paper while she was talking. But did they make sense? Do they make sense now? At this point, I have more questions than answers. Further appointments will bring the reality of the situation in to focus. Until then, I have no choice but to rest in the ambiguity of it all.
Do I have cancer? Perhaps. Maybe even likely. The result was based solely on an abdominal CT reading. Is there a chance that what they saw is not cancer? Maybe. Again, the answers lie behind a closed door that is further down the road from where I am currently standing.
Cancer is not new to my family. My mother had breast cancer twice, and I always assumed that if I had a daughter, I would need to be vigilant about early detection exams and screenings. I hadn't ruled out getting cancer myself, of course, it just wasn't part of the narrative.
It turns out that my mother, along with others in my family, have the BRCA1 gene mutation, which puts them at a much higher risk of cancer than the general population. The cruel irony is that just weeks ago I was tested for BRCA1 and was found to not have the gene mutation. A relief, at the time, now potentially spoiled 18 days later.
Interestingly, I have had a good couple of days. The fact is, if it is cancer, it has been there for awhile, which makes today not much different than one week or one month ago. I have always been a proponent of living in the moment (not living for the moment, living IN the moment; big difference), and this is the perfect time to take my own philosophy to heart. Why ruin the current moment with something that may or may not be true in the future? My double short americano tasted sweet this afternoon. It was amazing, actually. I'm glad I didn't miss out on that special, indulgent pleasure by being consumed with self-created fantasies about my (possible) future.
"A coward dies a thousand times before his death...," wrote William Shakespeare. I don't think we need to be so harsh. It is not a coward tendency but a HUMAN tendency to become preoccupied with thoughts; about ourselves, about others, about the future, etc... I will save you from my philosophical ramblings (for now!), but I have found that it takes a great deal of practice, and failing, to hold on to the present experience. The application of a particular amount of "trauma," physical or emotional, can rip one out of the moment, violently and with prejudice. But if you can fight the tendency to get caught up in the stories that will begin to manufacture in your head (and they will, because that's how our minds work), you will notice that that same experience can settle you back in to your body...which is always grounded in the here and now. [There are good reasons why we sometimes disassociate from some of these traumatic experiences. Of course. But this isn't a conversation about our reactions to that kind of trauma. We can save it for a later conversation.:)]
So today, I continue packing. Just like I was three days ago. Our move out of this house is happening on 6/16, with or without cancer. The sun is (mostly) shining (this is Seattle, after all). My windows are open and I can hear the birds singing. There might be a time for concern and worry in the future, but today is not that day.
On one hand, this situation feels a little too personal to blog about to the world. On the other hand, writing about it is what I feel like I want to do. So many people have asked me for updates regarding my health that letting everyone peek in through the window of my private life seems like the right course of action at the moment. I don't always have time to answer personal emails, so for those who are interested, this is the place for updates! And for those who are not, well, there are plenty of other things on Facebook to keep you busy (see Obstacle Racers Worldwide).
This is my life, as I experience it. This is just "the next thing." Keep moving forward, I say. Who knows how it will turn out? In the meantime, I have good friends, I have a great family, and I have an amazing wife, if you haven't noticed. Lots of things to be grateful for!