It was a year ago today that I saw a doctor for the first time about what I was to discover was breast cancer.
I had been feeling a small lump for a couple of weeks and I finally decided — on New Year’s Eve — to call a doctor friend and go over to his house for advice. He took a look and told me that it could be benign, but there was a good chance it was cancer. He gave me advice about who to see.
Then we sat on his porch next to some woods and watched the last sunset of the year through the trees. (That’s a picture I took at the time.) It’s hard to believe that’s been a year.
The end of a year and the beginning of another one almost always leads to reflection. For me — this year in particular — it leads to questions about what I’ve learned and whether I’ve “spent” the year wisely. I certainly didn’t have any control over the way the year started. I didn’t have any control over the uncertainty that came from the diagnosis of breast cancer and the surgery to remove it. But I’m not sure how well I handled the rest of the year. I’m not sure I’m any better off than I was as I sat on my friend’s porch in the late afternoon a year ago.
Up until that lump showed up, I had big plans for 2012. When you find out you have cancer, plans go out the window. Uncertainty creeps into everything. That’s understandable, but I think I let that overshadow everything else. I don’t think I ever got to the place of saying, “Hey, that was scary, but it’s over. I can go back to what I’d planned.”
I think that my fear — and especially the fear of what it felt like to go through the crisis alone — threw me into a tailspin that’s taken longer to recover from than I realized. In some undefined way, I was waiting for someone to rescue me, I think. It’s hard to accept that nobody’s going to rescue me. I just have to deal with life — and with life-threatening crises — alone.
I don’t know what I learned from 2012. I guess I learned what it feels like (for the first time) to be a piece of meat going through the processing of the medical system. I learned what it’s like to go to sleep in a surgical theater not knowing what’s going to happen while I’m out. I learned what it feels like to beat cancer. And I learned that I can do all of that alone, even if I hate it.
Right now, I have big plans for 2013. I plan to pick some things up where I left off last year before the cancer showed up. But I’ve learned that things happen in unexpected ways and for unexpected reasons.
Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” I have plans for the upcoming year. I have things I want to create. I have things I want to achieve. I have things I want to build. And I don’t want to be alone while I’m doing all of them.
I have plans. God laughed at me a year ago. I hope He has less reason to laugh at me today.