What happened? Frankly, I was blindsided. I'm okay today, but on Friday? Not so much. Was a time I would joke about PTSD. I'd goof around about how I was great in a crisis, WHILE the crisis was unfolding and throughout the duration. Then, once the winds calmed, I was simply done. Good for nothing, DONE. Stick a fork in me, DONE. Just. Done.
I know lots of what I say may be redundant but for those who may not have heard in prior rantings, I am involved in lots of "stuff." Perhaps, too much at times but for the moment, as that saying goes, "it is what it is." And whatever "it" is, all of it means lots to me so none of "it" is being cut loose. And all of "it" began at the hospital where I was treated. And part of "it" involves volunteering at the hospital. If one person is a teeny bit less fearful because I was able to just listen and share my own fears, I'm making sense out of the senseless. Cancer.
It's a sucky word to wrap your brain around and I've said this before, when you are the one in the gown and the word cancer hits the airwaves, the oxygen is sucked right out of those airwaves. Time passes and it becomes a part of the tapestry of our lives. I made great progress this year. SIX years ago, I was on the runaway train. Every year, those dates would be looming .... every single date .... big deal dates and no so big deal dates and every date in between.
For me, no dates were more difficult than diagnosis date and big surgery date. July 27 and September 19. 2006. Last year, they mattered. Lots. In 2012, as those dates approached, they were nothing more than the next days on a calendar. Both days, it was after 7PM before I realized, "Big Date" (and not "hot date" kinda big date either...if you know what I mean). That's huge. In the scheme of moving beyond and into the next phase of whatever one likes to call this, definitely HUGE. For the record..... some might call it their cancer journey and in many respects, it is a journey. Most of the time, however, it felt more like an obstacle course or a collision course. Now, it's just part of who I am. The most important word? PART... I am not my cancer.
Cancer does not define me but cancer has shaped who I am today. It has carved the direction of the path upon which I travel. I have my moments. I do not like living while looking over my shoulder which happens at times. It goes with the territory. It's the haunted house. Never know when a ghost might jump from behind a corner, always when least expected.
Last Friday, a ghost jumped out at me. I was at the hospital visiting patients. I fully expected it would be a quiet day. The social worker leaves me a list of patients and room numbers. I don't just walk around arbitrarily and decide if I should pop in for a chat. Everything is on one floor. It's the breast cancer floor. It's M10. Only four patients on Friday, September 21 and as approached the first two rooms, I skipped past. One woman was sleeping and the other had medical staff at her bedside. The other two patients were in the same room. Rarely does it happen that I visit both patients in a room. Don't know why but last Friday was only the second time that happened.
As I glanced at the sheet and began walking toward the room, I felt a flood of emotion consume me from head to toe. Something began firing in my brain. It was the numbers on that paper. It was the date, it was the room number, it was a FULL BLOWN flashback. I was having a PTSD flashback.
I realized it was the anniversary of my discharge from the hospital. On September 21, 2006, I walked out of the hospital, my body forever altered in ways that still mess with my mind. The person who walked through those doors on 9/19 didn't resemble the woman who exited the same doors on 9/21. As those thoughts were racing through my brain, I approached that first patient. I walked through the door and into the room and there was an eerie familiarity. I was in my room, that was my bed, MY side of the room.
I visited, we chatted and ultimately, I stepped on to the elevator and blinked back the tears. I walked the corridors to the exit of the building, swallowing the lump in my throat. I got into my car in the garage, willing my body to cooperate until I could get myself and my car home in one piece. Can't drive with tear-filled eyes.
When I arrived home, I stopped fighting the tears. I've come far, but clearly, one never knows when something will trigger those overwhelming emotions. It wasn't being in the hospital, it wasn't walking into that room, it just WAS. Because it IS. And because it will always BE. There. Lurking.
I let my guard down. I was confidently past those big days. Until I was blindsided. There's a lesson in there somewhere but I don't think I'll ever learn that particular lesson. It's one over which I'll never have control. Once betrayed by my body, these moments will happen. And they will be just that. Moments.
And today? The moment has passed. As for that letter? A huge thank you to the IRS for their letter of forgiveness over my screw up with a payroll tax deposit. Years of impeccable pre-chemobrain reporting got me a pass. The phone? Still sitting in the box. Maybe tomorrow.