Today is the six month mark. I guess some would term it a “cancerversary,” but I wouldn’t call it that. First, because I hate the term “cancerversary.” And, second, I haven’t bought any commemorative jewelry for the occasion. (Note: Click on the link.)
A lot has happened in six months. I’ve had my breasts bared and pressed, lifted, smooshed, squeezed, fondled, and photographed (and not one effing string of beads). In addition they’ve been numbed, probed by small needles and by really large gauge automated ones. I’ve been irradiated from the outside and from within. I’ve had long ass needles inserted in and through my lung and my lumbar spine. I have been legally high and constipated (yes, they go together). In pain, out of pain, and in pain again. I’ve been Stage II and Stage IV. Frustrated, annoyed, sad, accepting, happy, and generally pretty cool. In work, out of work, and in work again. Experienced my first Pinktober and raged against that little pink machine with some potency. Oh, yeah, and there was that nuclear meltdown in December that made things interesting. I’ve laughed, and cried, and laughed again. And boy have I laughed. I have amassed an overwhelmingly positive and supportive network of friends, physicians, advocates, and fellow patients that must be, in my experience anyway, second to none. And because I’ve added so many new pills to my life, I’ve had to upgrade my pill containers–putting me within an arm’s length of senior citizen town.
Aside from learning that my lifespan has been shortened, the most traumatic result of the last six months has been the assault on my professional life. Tamoxifen surely exposed itself as both my best friend and my most spiteful enemy. Thanks to that tumor flare in L5 and S1, I have been in pain since mid-September. Those enlarged lesions brought back life to an old injury, its resulting surgery, and arthritis that developed as a result of that trauma and of simple aging. The relentless assault on my senses made the last few months confusing and hard to bear, but I got through them. The worst part was not being professionally productive. The proverbial thorn in my side.
But on Thursday, January 17, I returned to the office! It wasn’t much, just four hours in the afternoon, but it made me smile from ear to ear. I turned the key, opened the door, and I was–in a very real sense–home. I looked around and surveyed the scene: the conference table was filled to the brim with an exhibit that had been taken down in my absence, the empty Snapple bottle was right where I left it (probably with a science project in it), the paper piles representing projects in process were still in place, and my plant died. I hung up my coat on the 100 year old coat rack, turned on the lamps, and sat down in my chair. And for the first time in months I was truly happy.
I walked into the unit and received many hugs and good wishes from my colleagues. Our student employees were happy and enveloped me in tight hugs. I walked into the stacks and smelled the books and archives. Not a scent that I am so crazy about, but it is the essence of my work and I inhaled it like a triumph. My mailbox was jammed with a month’s worth of mail and publications. I received a warm welcome from my boss and got caught up on a few things and I knew it was just scratching the surface of what awaited me. And I had simply forgotten just how much walking one has to do in this large bi-level workspace. The building in which I work is enormous and while not as large as some, when it was built in 1932 it was the largest library in North America. There really isn’t such a thing as “just running” an errand to an office on another floor; it’s more like setting out on an expedition sans Sherpa.
I closed my day after four hours, but it was surprisingly productive and I repeated the drill on Friday. By the end of Friday I was pretty tired insomuch as my lower back was fatigued and smarting a little. I looked forward to the three day weekend ahead of me (the first Martin Luther King Day that I will have observed in over twenty years!), logged out of my workstation, closed the lights, and gave my office the once over before I closed the door. I walked home a little sore, but I still had a bounce in my step. I was back in the saddle and I had overcome a significant obstruction in my life. Yeah, when I finally got home I did a fist pump when I closed the door.
The last six months have certainly been interesting, to say the least. Knock on wood that the next six months will just get better and better.